Early Monday morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology letter, written in Chinese and posted to Apple's corporate site in China, in which the company promised to improve its customer support and warranty policies in China. The mea culpa came after several public attacks by official China media.
(See also What's Really Behind China's Attacks On Apple.)
According to The Wall Street Journal, which offered a translation, the Cook letter read, in part:
We are aware that a lack of communications... led to the perception that Apple is arrogant and doesn't care or attach enough importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gave consumers.
Cook's contrite, rapid response ws not unexpected. Just last week, in "Nobody Likes Tim Cook. Oh, Except Apple Customers And His Peers," I praised Cook for his willingness to quickly get in front of issues like Apple Maps and Foxconn labor concerns. And given that Apple's 2012 sales in China were $23.8 billion and China is Apple's second largest market, Cook really didn't have much choice but to make nice.
Will The Apology Help?
Of continuing concern, though, is whether or not the China government is singling out Apple. Last month ReadWrite noted that actions taken across multiple organizations within China's government could be part of a concerted effort to either limit Apple's potential within the country or to help China build it's own viable smartphone platform - to compete against Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
While this remains supposition, China's aggressive pressure on Apple has clearly had an impact. Again, from the Journal:
Apple has been the target of criticism in China's state-run media since the middle of last month. China's powerful national broadcaster, China Central Television, and The People's Daily—the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party—have accused Apple of skirting warranty periods, adopting customer-service policies that discriminate against Chinese customers, and formulating an inadequate and arrogant response to the reports.
As ReadWrite detailed last month, a widely viewed China Central Television (CCTV) report that accused Apple of not fully meeting its product warranty obligations generated a significant social media backlash within the country. Per the Cook letter, Apple will extend warranty coverage on the iPhone 4 and 4S and will replace any broken iPhone 4 or 4S with a new phone - not a refurbished device, as was the previous practice. The company will also provide additional training to Apple authorized resellers regarding company warranty policy and make its product warranty policies more clear to prospective buyers.
Image of Tim Cook courtesy of Reuters.