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What's Apple CEO Tim Cook doing in China?

There are plenty of good reasons for Apple's leader to be visiting this key country.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the iPhone announcement January 11, 2011 in New York City. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

So just how important is China to Apple?

Let us count the ways:

  • China is Apple's second-biggest market after the US
  • The company sold 4 million iPads there last year according to the Wall Street Journal, and demand for its iPhone 4 has been "staggering"
  • Apple has six successful retail stores in China (two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, one in Hong Kong and one in Sanlitun)
  • Much of its supply chain is based here (hello Foxconn), and the company is under increasing scrutiny about how these workers are treated
  • Apple is being sued by Chinese company Proview International Holdings for the right to use the iPad name in China

And, of course, China is the world's fastest-growing market for a lot of things, including the kinds of consumer electronics that have made Apple the world's hottest brand and most valuable company. 

So it's a pretty good time for Apple CEO Tim Cook to do what Steve Jobs never did: make an official visit to China as the chief executive of the company.

On Cook's agenda: meeting with Chinese government officials.

According to Beijing Daily newspaper, Cook met Monday with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong.

Guo reportedly told Cook that he hoped Apple would “further deepen cooperation, to achieve better development,” according to the report, which was cited today by Bloomberg.

Apple also apparently plans to make a "greater investment" in China, though the company's Beijing spokesperson didn't give further details.

Of course, Apple is also important to China.

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From the uncomfortable naming of the iPad to that awkward moment when you realize your iPhone was made by hundreds of child laborers in China, Apple continues to enjoy techie stardom among its missteps.

Apple defends its right to use iPad name in China

Can Apple use the name iPad in China? The company made its case today in court.
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The Apple logo sign on the San Francisco Apple store is turned off in memory of Steve Jobs on October 6, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Kevork Djansezian/AFP/Getty Images)

It's been a big day for Apple in China.

The world's most valuable company — and America's hottest brand — defended its right to use the iPad name at the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court.

Yes, it's a big deal when a company faces a legal challenge to its fastest-selling product.

But it's an ever bigger deal when that challenge happens to be in China, the world's fastest-growing market.

As Macro readers know from our ongoing coverage of the story, Apple was sued by a small Chinese firm Proview International, which claims that it owns the rights to the iPad name in China. 

Proview has had some success against Apple in the dispute: Chinese authorities have seized iPads from some retailers, and iPad sales have been blocked in several smaller Chinese cities. 

On Tuesday, Apple sent a nasty letter to Proview's chairman (read it here in both Mandarin and English).

Apple also put out this statement:

"We bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago. Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter. Our case is still pending in mainland China.” 

So how did it go in court Wednesday?

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Apple in a legal battle for the iPad name?

A $1.6 billion lawsuit reportedly claims Apple can't use the name iPad in China.
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A man navigates through the new iPad 2 during its launch in the Philippines at an Apple store in Manila on April 29, 2011. (Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

One of my favorite Chinese proverbs goes something like this:

"To steal a book is an elegant offense."

The proverb — and popular business book of that name — gets to the heart of intellectual property rights, as seen through so-called Confucian values.

The deep thought here: ideas can't truly be owned, because they belong to everyone.

But what if that proverb is applied to the hottest company in the world, and to its hottest product?

And what if you change the word "book" to "iPad?"

That's the charge reportedly leveled against Apple in China. 

According to Apple Insider, America's tech darling is embroiled in a nasty $1.6 billion lawsuit in China, which challenges Apple's right to use the name iPad in China. 

Here's the skinny, according to Apple Insider:

"In 2006, Apple purchased the iPad trademark from display manufacturer Proview Electronics (Taiwan) for $55,000 by way of a front company called IP Application Development," the website writes.

"However, the company claims that the deal did not include the rights to the trademark in China, as those were owned by Proview Technology (Shenzhen), a subsidiary of Proview International in Hong Kong," Apple Insider adds

The Wall Street Journal landed an interview with Proview's chairman in Shenzhen.

"We have to admit that Apple's iPad is a great product, and Apple creates great value out of that," Yang Rongshan told the Journal. "But this is not the reason to support their irregular practice here."

The Chinese company reportedly sued Apple last year in China. Believing that it is the rightful owner of the trademark, Apple countersued, lost, and has appealed.

No official comment on the case has been made by Apple or Chinese officials.

But Proview apparently doesn't just want money. It wants an apology from Apple, too.

"We ask the court to stop selling and marketing for Apple’s iPad in China. We also demand an apology,” Proview lawyer Xianghui Xie told the China Daily.

There's some speculation in China that Proview is strapped for cash, and that it's looking to pay off debts with proceeds from any lawsuit.

And, of course, Apple will no doubt mount a powerful defense if this threat to one of its most important products becomes even slightly worrying to its bottom line.

But if proven true, just how elegant would Apple's alleged offense be in the grand scheme of things?

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Way-C tablet, the first African iPad rival, goes on sale in Congo

Way-C, the first African tablet, was invented in the Republic of Congo by 26-year-old Verone Mankou, and for now is sold only in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.
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The Way-C tablet, an African rival to the iPad, went on sale in the Republic of Congo on Jan. 30, 2012, according to its inventor, Verone Mankou. (Facebook)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Meet the Way-C, the first African tablet to rival the iPad, created by a young inventor with dreams of bringing internet access to the masses.

But if you want one, for now you'll have to travel to the Republic of Congo.

The Way-C, which means "the light of the stars" in a dialect of northern Congo, was invented in Congo by 26-year-old Verone Mankou, under his company, VMK.

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Africa News: Business use of iPads is increasing

47 percent of African respondents said their iPads are corporate-issued.
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Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad on Mar. 10, 2011 prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — When African iPad users think of their glossy tablets, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja may be the last thing on their minds.

The latest "iPad for Business Survey 2012" from IDG connect reveals that at 13 percent, the proportion of African respondents who say they use their iPad for entertainment is the lowest in the world.

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African users tend to use their iPad less for entertainment and personal communication than for business purposes.

In fact, the surveys shows that 47 percent of the iPads used in Africa was purchased for the worker by the employee. This is compared to the global average of 24 percent. 

That means African professionals are almost twice as likely as the global average to be supplied with an iPad by their employer, according to ITWeb.

More from GlobalPost: Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world

“The research shows that the iPad has emerged as true work device," IDG Kathryn Cave said. "It has heralded seismic shifts in the way its users access and digest information. And it has shown that the African continent has its own unique business landscape."

Of those African professionals who own iPads, 83 percent said they always use their iPad at work, compared to the global average of 51 percent.

The survey revealed other notable statistics: 97 percent of professionals use the iPad for reading and 66 percent say their iPad has partially or completely replaced their laptop.

More from GlobalPost: Apple iPhone Siri, meet competitor Evi, from True Knowledge

Apple’s iPad officially launched in South Africa last January. The iPad 2 with Wi-Fi hit stores in South Africa on April 29.

The "iPad for Business Survey 2012" which you can download here is based on interviews with IT and business professionals across every continent, reported ITWeb.

IDG Connect has not specified the exact size and demographics of its research sample.

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