Tech magnate Apple recently unveiled the iPhone 15, boasting of its cutting-edge 3-nanometer mobile processors crafted by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
This release, however, was shrouded in whispers and wary eyes, given China’s veiled admonishments towards the tech giant. Notably absent from this tussle? Alibaba, one of China’s leading tech behemoths. Their conspicuous silence is a game-changer and deserves attention.
Apple and the Chinese Quandary
Despite launching their state-of-the-art iPhone 15 series, Apple’s celebrations were subdued. Their problems began at home, with China subtly dissuading government employees and state-owned company workers from using iPhones or other foreign smartphones.
Such restrictions, intended to guard trade secrets, are projected to extend to all personnel by next March. China’s decision to also outlaw Apple Watch and AirPods speaks volumes.
This unofficial yet palpable boycott is problematic for Apple. With 19% of its recent quarterly revenue hailing from greater China, any dent in their market share would be catastrophic. Questions linger: Can Apple, amidst China’s economic slowdown and geopolitical tensions, entice consumers with the iPhone 15’s features?
Huawei’s Steady Ascent and Alibaba’s Stealth Strategy
Once a thorn in Apple’s side, Huawei, had watched its domestic market share dwindle due to US interventions, paving the way for Apple to dominate. Apple’s market share in China skyrocketed from a mere 9% to over 20%, even leading the premium phone market segment for two quarters.
The tides may be changing again, with Huawei’s back-to-back releases of a 5G foldable smartphone and a non-folding 5G handset. The incorporation of Huawei’s Kirin processors in these phones is a noteworthy feat, considering the U.S. export constraints that alienated it from pivotal global chip collaborators.
Yet, amidst these tech titans’ power plays, Alibaba remains the dark horse, navigating the tumultuous tech terrains with finesse and mystery.
Daniel Zhang’s abrupt resignation from the helm of Alibaba’s premier cloud unit signals more than just a leadership change. It suggests that the company’s founder, Jack Ma, though not officially associated, still wields considerable influence over its affairs. Zhang’s exit and the resurgence of Wang Jian, a Ma ally and founder of Alibaba Cloud, suggests the consolidation of Ma’s hold.
The underlying narrative here? Alibaba is recalibrating its strategies, potentially eyeing a significant market shift. Duncan Clark of BDA insightfully remarks, “Alibaba wants a very big reset now.” This reset could be Alibaba’s entrance into the brewing tech war between Apple and Huawei. But how? And when?
As Apple and Huawei brace for an inevitable face-off, one can’t help but wonder about Alibaba’s next move. Will it side with its compatriot Huawei or extend an olive branch to Apple? The Semicon Taiwan chip industry fair, drawing global attention to its semiconductor potential, might be the playground for Alibaba’s next big reveal.
Tech wars are convoluted, filled with intrigues and silent maneuvers. As the industry giants take overt shots at each other, remember to keep an eye on the silent players, for they often hold the trump card. Alibaba’s silence is deafening, and only time will unveil its strategy amidst this Apple-China standoff.