China Welcomes Apple CEO Tim Cook, Approves New iPad for Sale

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Reuters

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks to employees at an Apple store in Beijing on March 26, 2012

Apple’s new iPad, which is currently for sale in over 30 countries worldwide, has been an immediate hit — the company sold over 3 million units in the first weekend. But there is one very large and conspicuous market where the device is not for sale: China, which is, ironically, the place where iPads and iPhones are built. But that’s now set to change after Chinese authorities have approved the new iPad for sale, according to a report.

The China Quality Certification Centre has given the green light for Apple to sell the wi-fi version of its new iPad in the country, according to AllThingsD. Apple declined to comment on when the new iPad might go on sale there. AllThingsD speculates that the device could hit shelves next month.

The apparent iPad approval comes as Apple CEO Tim Cook traveled to China in an effort to address several knotty problems for the tech giant, including an intellectual-property dispute over the iPad trademark and continuing scrutiny over working conditions at the company’s suppliers, most notably the sprawling Foxconn facility in the Shenzhen. “China is very important to us, and we look forward to even greater investment and growth there,” Carolyn Wu, a China-based spokesperson for Apple, told Reuters.

(MORE: Apple Sells 3 Million New iPads on Opening Weekend)

China represents a bonanza for Apple for at least four reasons: it’s the world’s largest consumer market (pop. 1.3 billion); it has the world’s largest Internet user base (over 300 million and growing quickly); the country is growing rapidly (nearly 8% per year), putting disposable income in the pocket of a burgeoning middle class; and finally, the country has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for Apple products.

During last quarter’s earnings call, Cook described Chinese demand for the iPhone 4S as “staggering” and “off the charts,” adding that despite a “bold” bet on the Chinese market, the company still underestimated the Chinese appetite for the product. When the device went on sale, violence broke out at Apple stores there after it quickly sold out.

Apple has said it intends to open 25 retail stores in China by the end of 2012, but so far the company has only five of its own locations doing business there. Even with about 100 authorized resellers, the company has not been able to keep up with the massive demand. Apple holds an estimated 70% of the tablet market in China.

As for the new iPad, reports out of China have suggested that some 200,000 new units have been smuggled into the country, an indication of the colossal demand for Apple products there.

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