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Is Apple’s $1 billion bet a move to please China?

apple and didi, didi chuxing

A $1 billion investment by Apple in a Chinese ride-hailing app is a rounding error for the Silicon Valley giant, which generates about $4 billion in profit every month and has $233 billion in cash and securities in the bank.

对硅谷巨头苹果(Apple)来说,投给中国一款叫车应用的10亿美元微不足道,因为该公司每月盈利高达40亿美元左右,银行里还有2330亿美元的现金和证券。

But Apple's surprising interest in the company, called Didi Chuxing, and its out-of-character willingness to publicize the news Thursday evening could go a long way toward showing the Chinese government it is interested in supporting local business.

但苹果对这家名为滴滴出行的公司表现出的令人意外的兴趣,以及周四傍晚一反常态地高调宣布这个消息,最终也许能向中国政府表明,自己有意支持中国的本土企业。

More than any other major American technology company, Apple has had huge success in China. In the last fiscal year, Chinese consumers spent $59 billion on Apple products.

苹果在中国取得的成功,超过了美国其他任何一家大型科技公司。上一财年,中国消费者在苹果的产品上花了590亿美元。

With that success has come huge risk. In recent years, Beijing has grown more aggressive in pushing an agenda aimed at expanding local tech companies, forcing multinationals to play by its rules if they want access to China's markets.

伴随着这种成功而来的,是巨大的风险。近年来,北京在推动一项旨在发展本土科技公司的议程上更加强势,逼迫想进入中国市场的跨国公司遵守中国制定的规则。

Apple has faced increased scrutiny recently in China, where regulators shut its iBooks and iTunes movie stores. Other companies that have hit such roadblocks, like Cisco, Microsoft and Qualcomm, responded by investing in local partnerships and trying to portray themselves not simply as foreign companies, but as stakeholders in China.

最近,苹果在中国受到的审查加剧。监管机构关闭了苹果的iBooks服务和iTunes影视商店。遇到这类障碍的其他公司,如思科(Cisco)、微软(Microsoft)和高通(Qualcomm)的应对策略是投资中国当地的合作伙伴,并努力称自己不仅仅是外国公司,还与中国的利益息息相关。

"Apple must be increasingly sensitive to the need to improve its government relations and to stake out a more entrenched position in the China market," said Mark Natkin, managing director of the China technology research firm Marbridge Consulting. "So making a sizable investment in a leading Chinese I.T. company will buy it a lot of good will."

"苹果必须越来越注意改善同政府的关系,在中国市场树立更稳固的地位,"中国科技调研公司迈博瑞咨询有限公司(Marbridge Consulting)的执行董事马克·纳特金(Mark Natkin)说。"因此,对一家领先的信息技术公司进行一笔金额可观的投资,可以买回不少的善意。"

He added that Apple would probably have to follow up the investment with other partnerships and spending in China if it wanted to stay in Beijing's good graces.

他接着表示,要想继续讨得北京的欢心,苹果可能得进一步投资其他合作伙伴,继续在中国花钱。

In Apple's case, the new investment also helps it show Beijing how its operating system and iPhones are closely linked with the rise of app development within China; Didi's app, for example, is the most downloaded ride-hailing software in China.

就苹果而言,这笔新投资还有助于向北京表明,其操作系统和iPhone与中国国内应用开发的崛起密切相关。比如,滴滴的应用是中国下载量最大的叫车软件。

apple and didi, didi chuxing

"Didi exemplifies the innovation taking place in the iOS developer community in China," Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, said in a news release.

"滴滴彰显了中国iOS开发者社群的锐意创新精神,"苹果首席执行官蒂莫西·D·库克(Timothy D. Cook)在新闻稿中说。

For nearly a decade, Apple's phenomenal growth was powered by the popularity of the iPhone. But sales of the device have slowed and last month the company reported its first quarterly drop ever in iPhone sales, along with its first drop in overall revenue in 13 years.

在近十年的时间里,iPhone的大受欢迎推动苹果实现了巨大的增长。但现在,iPhone销量放缓。上月,苹果公司通报称,iPhone季度销量首次出现下滑,公司的整体收入也出现了13年来的首次下降。

Many investors hoped that strong growth in China would offset some of the iPhone's deceleration. Revenue growth in the greater China region, which includes China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, hovered around 70 percent or more all last year. But last month the company said that quarterly sales in greater China had fallen 26 percent compared with the previous year.

很多投资者希望在中国市场的强劲增长能抵消iPhone的部分减速。去年全年,该公司在包括中国大陆、香港和台湾在内的大中华地区的收入增幅在70%左右徘徊,甚至更高。但上月,苹果称大中华区的季度销售额同比下降26%。

For Didi, the deal is a way to beef up its systems. The Chinese company serves close to 300 million users across more than 400 Chinese cities — more users than Uber — but lags technologically, analysts say.

对滴滴而言,这笔交易是一个提升自身系统的途径。滴滴在中国400多个城市有近三亿用户,超过了优步(Uber)。但分析人士称滴滴在技术上是落后的。

For more than a year, Apple and Didi — which share several partners, including Japan's SoftBank and Coatue — had been in contact. Apple was one of a handful of technology companies that, over the last year, Didi had talked with to better familiarize itself with the West, according to a person briefed on the deal.

苹果和滴滴接触了一年多时间。双方有多个共同的合作伙伴,包括日本软银(SoftBank)和Coatue。据一名了解交易情况的人士透露,去年滴滴为了增进对西方的了解,接触了几家科技公司,苹果是其中之一。

In April, Mr. Cook sat down for the first time with the leaders of Didi to discuss working together.

4月,库克首次和滴滴的领导层坐下来,讨论合作事宜。

Just three weeks later, Apple was ready to take things to the next level with the announcement on Thursday of the $1 billion bet on Didi, one of its largest investments ever.

仅仅三周后,苹果便准备好了进入下一阶段,并在上周四宣布向滴滴投资十亿美元。这是其有史以来最大的投资之一。

In the midst of Didi's last major round of raising funds, the relationship quickly deepened, the person said. The two companies managed to close the deal with "lightning speed," Didi's president, Jean Liu, said in a conference call discussing the deal late Thursday.

上述了解情况的人士称,在滴滴上一轮大型融资的过程中,双方关系迅速深化。滴滴总裁柳青在周四晚上召开电话会议讨论这笔交易时称,两家公司设法用"闪电般的速度"敲定了交易。

The two will work together on technology, marketing and products, Ms. Liu added.

柳青接着表示,双方将在技术、营销和产品方面展开合作。

Mr. Cook has repeatedly said that Apple is looking for investment opportunities for its huge cash hoard. Apple has invested small sums in app developers before, and the company views China's app developer community as a prime source of future growth.

库克多次表示,苹果正在为自己积累起来的大量现金寻找投资机会。苹果之前曾给应用开发者投过小笔资金,它认为中国的应用开发者社区是未来主要的增长来源。

"What this means to me is that Apple is firmly committed to the Chinese market," said Brian Blau, an analyst with the Gartner research firm. "They are going to look at lots of opportunities."

"在我看来,这意味着苹果坚定地重视中国市场,"调研公司高德纳(Gartner)的分析师布莱恩·布劳(Brian Blau)说。"他们会关注大量机会。"

Apple's move also draws it further into a Chinese market crisscrossed with competitive alliances. With the investment, Apple is now aligned with China's two largest Internet companies, Tencent and Alibaba, as a major shareholder in Didi. And Didi gained Apple as a big-name ally in its battle with Uber in China.

此举也让苹果进一步进入了竞争关系错综复杂的中国市场。通过这笔投资成为滴滴大股东的苹果,现在和中国最大的两家互联网公司腾讯和阿里巴巴同属一个阵营。在中国与优步上演商战的滴滴,则争取到了苹果作为自己的大牌盟友。

Google's chief legal officer and head of corporate development, David Drummond, is on the board of Uber. And in 2013 Google's venture capital arm, GV, invested $258 million in Uber.

谷歌(Google)首席法务官、企业发展负责人戴维·德拉蒙德(David Drummond)是优步的董事。在2013年,谷歌旗下的风险投资公司GV向优步投资2.58亿美元。

But the partnership between Uber and Google has grown more distant over the past few years as both sides have independently pursued self-driving car projects. Uber has also made moves to wean itself from Google's map technology, including an acquisition of the mapping start-up deCarta.

但过去几年,随着优步和谷歌都在独立发展自动驾驶汽车项目,双方的合作关系变得愈发疏远。优步还采取了多项举措,试图摆脱谷歌的地图技术,包括收购地图测绘创业公司deCarta。

Investing in ride-hailing services gives Apple a doorway into the world's largest auto market and smartphone market by cars and phones sold, and an opportunity to better integrate its devices with cars in China. China's Internet companies are already hard at work developing driverless car technology and entertainment systems for cars, many of which are based on Google's Android software.

中国是按销量计全球最大的汽车和智能手机市场。投资叫车服务让苹果获得了进入这个市场的通道,并有机会让自己的设备更好地和中国的汽车融为一体。中国的互联网公司已经在努力开发无人驾驶汽车技术和车载娱乐系统,其中很多是基于谷歌的Android软件。

Apple has been working on its own secret car project, which one independent analyst, Neil Cybart, said accounted for a huge share of the billions of dollars in research and development spending by the company.

苹果一直在进行自己的秘密汽车计划。独立分析师尼尔·赛巴特(Neil Cybart)表示,在该公司数以十亿计的研发投入中,该项目所占份额巨大。

"Maybe they could be a technology supplier to Didi," Mr. Blau said. "Maybe they could learn from Didi."

"也许它们可以成为滴滴的技术供应商,"布劳说。"也许可以向滴滴取经。"

The auto market might be one new way that Apple can keep itself relevant to Chinese leaders who often view foreign tech firms in terms of how much utility they have in China as teachers of local companies, Mr. Natkin of Marbridge Consulting said.

迈博瑞咨询有限公司的纳特金表示,苹果公司也许可以通过汽车市场让中国领导人认识到它的重要性。中国领导人看重的是外国公司对本土企业起到的引导作用。

"As that utility wanes, the room to maneuver dwindles and the welcome mat starts to get drawn under the door," he said.

"随着这种作用的变小,回旋余地逐渐减少,受欢迎程度开始降低,"他说。

2016-06-22

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