Exec: Lenovo 'lucky' Apple not focused on China

Lenovo is “lucky” that Apple CEO Steve Jobs isn’t focused on the Chinese market, according to reported comments by Lenovo’s chairman.

“We are lucky that Steve Jobs has such a bad temper and doesn’t care about China. If Apple were to spend the same effort on the Chinese consumer as we do, we would be in trouble,” Liu Chuanzhi told the Financial Times in a report published Sunday.

A Lenovo spokesman confirmed that Liu had made the remarks but sought to put them in context, saying the comment about Apple came at a “relaxed” moment during a dinner interview. Liu is well aware of Lenovo’s own strengths as a company and technology provider, said Jay Chen, a spokesman for Lenovo in Beijing, who was present during the interview.

Even so, Liu’s comments are noteworthy because Lenovo’s established dominance of the Chinese PC market hasn’t faced a serious threat in years.

Apple doesn’t break out revenue figures for China, but financial statements offer some insight into the general state of the company’s business in Asia.

Unit sales of Macintosh computers in Asia, excluding Japan, rose 61 percent during the six-month period from October 2009 to March 2010, to 651,000 units, according to Apple’s most recent quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That represents the biggest jump seen by Apple in any of the geographic regions where it operates.

The scale of Apple’s growth in Asia is even more impressive when considered in terms of net sales, which includes revenue from the sales of Macs, iPhones and all of the company’s other products. That figure rose 161 percent during the same six-month period, growing to $3.7 billion.

Asian sales—including revenue from China—may pale in comparison to the $11.1 billion that Apple earned in the Americas during this six-month period, but there are clear signs that Apple is increasingly looking outside the U.S. for sales growth.

For example, the recently launched iPhone 4 was made available to users in the U.S. and in other countries on the same day. Indeed, time zone differences on the launch day meant that Japanese users were able to get their hands on the iPhone 4 before retail customers in the U.S.

While China wasn’t among the first countries to get the iPhone 4, Apple has slowly but steadily expanded there in recent years.

Apple opened its first retail store in China in 2008, just before the Beijing Olympics started. Last year, the company began selling the iPhone in China through a partnership with China Unicom that was sealed after many months of negotiations.

Apple will soon open its second retail shop in China with a store in Shanghai—the first step in a reportedly aggressive retail expansion plan for the country.

An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment.

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