Months ago, Apple invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, the number one ride sharing company in China. What did Didi do with that money? What is the master plan? Apple was clearly thinking forward with this one.
Uber was trying to catch up in China, and hoped that Didi wouldn’t have the resources to be able to continue to raise enough money to stay ahead. This is where Apple came in, with the instant resources. Not only did the billion dollar investment assure that Didi would stay on track, it helped to allow the company to acquire Uber’s Chinese operations. At the end of July, Didi paid $35 billion for Uber. Obviously, Didi felt confident to spend that amount of money, especially with Apple’s support.
As a part of the Apple/Didi deal, Apple received a seat on the executive board. Now, while somewhat indirectly, Apple has a seat on a board that also encompasses Uber’s Chinese operations. Whether we call it Didi or Uber, or Didi/Uber, doesn’t really matter. The fact is that the largest ride-sharing operation on the planet is part Apple.
Didi/Uber China provides a minimum of 10 million rides per day and has over 300 million customers. Compare this to Uber’s U.S. figures of about 1 million rides a day. With Didi’s growth, paired with the acquisition of Uber, Didi is looking at 30 million rides a day in the next year or so.
Apple is not the only major tech company with its hands in Didi. Didi is supported by China’s three largest internet powerhouses: Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Here’s where it all gets really interesting. There is no other company backed by all three of these companies, and now Apple as the fourth. All four companies are moving into electric cars on some level. Baidu (the Google of China) is already making and testing autonomous cars, and is testing them in the U.S. as well. Alibaba has unveiled and is already taking orders for, and shipping its “internet car”. Even more enlightening is that Tencent has teamed with Foxconn, contract maker of the iPhone, to release a smart, electric car around 2020. Hmmm …
Didi provides Apple with access to an almost unfathomable fleet of vehicles and expertise on electric and autonomous technology. There is no limit for Apple, in terms of testing possibilities. Similarly, General Motors is already setting the tone by assuring that every driver for Lyft, Uber’s U.S. competition, will be the first to have the option of getting a Chevrolet Bolt. This puts the Bolt on the road quickly, exposing it to drivers and allows for preliminary testing. Apple can do the same in China.
Through the Didi deal, Apple is now also connected with the other companies mentioned, offering Apple even greater opportunities in the automotive technology segment. It’s a mega-transportation enterprise, with all of the right investors, sharing similar visions for the future of mobility.
Wait … it gets even better?! We all know that Apple has increased its R&D spending exponentially, on undisclosed projects. Recently, Apple opened a new R&D center in Beijing, to connect closer ties with its Chinese partners, and other Chinese tech companies. Added to this, last evening, Tim Cook announced that Apple is expanding again, building another R&D center in China’s bustling Shenzen Industrial Park. Apple spokesman, Josh Rosenstock explained:
“We are excited to be opening a new Research and Development center here next year so our engineering team can work even more closely and collaboratively with our manufacturing partners.”
Apple plans to attract talented tech developers and partners to add to its current relationships with Chinese companies and universities. The Didi deal, the Uber acquisition, and the motivated tech partners in connected, electric, and autonomous vehicles, matched with doubly advancing R&D and connections in China, all together seem like a perfect recipe for an assured and successful Apple pivot.