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Apple vs. Google: Starkly Different China Experiences

Customers wait outside an Apple store all night before the mainland release of iPhone 4S in Beijing, China
Customers wait outside an Apple store all night before the mainland release of iPhone 4S in Beijing, ChinaPhotograph by Feng Li/Getty Images

In China, sometimes having the first-mover advantage is often no advantage at all. Case in point: Apple vs. Google. The two companies have taken very different approaches to the world’s second-largest economy. Google moved quickly into the market, luring away a top executive from Microsoft to run its China business and taking aim at local search-engine champion Baidu. Meanwhile, Apple was in no rush. The company waited until 2008 before opening its first Apple Store, in Beijing, and has been slow to add more outlets. Today there are only two stores in Beijing and three in Shanghai.

Yet, as executives at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday talked up their China plans, it seems clear that Apple’s go-slow approach is starting to pay off. Scott Forstall, Apple’s president of iOS software, and head of Mac software engineering Craig Federighi both highlighted in their presentations new features designed to attract Chinese users. “Get your apps ready for China,” Federighi told the developers.