Apple to set up first R&D centre in China

Apple will boost its investment in China and build its first Asia-Pacific research and development center in the country, said chief executive Tim Cook on Tuesday during his visit to Beijing.

“The center will open later this year, bringing together our engineering and operations teams in China as we develop advanced technologies and services for our products,” the company said in a statement.

The center will unite Apple's engineering and operations teams in China and is also intended to deepen the company's ties to partners and universities, Apple said. It did not specify the office’s location or planned number of employees.

While China is still a major market for Apple, the tech giant has been facing difficulties in the past couple months. The company was forced to shut down its iTunes Movies and iBooks services there in April, and lost a patent case against a little-known Chinese rival relating to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in June, along with a trademark dispute over the use of the word "iPhone" on leather goods.

At the same time,  iPhone sales drop has been dramatic, decreasing by one-third in its fiscal third quarter, after having more than doubled a year earlier. The slowing economic growth and increasing competition with Chinese OEMs are likely to be the causes.

Upon the new announcement of a new R&D center, Apple will have a foot on the ground in China. The company has more than doubled its number of corporate sites in China to 45 since 2011, so the move may help it consolidate some of those facilities. Its spending on research and development has also quadrupled since 2011 as investors are eager to see results from other projects Apple is exploring amid slowing sales.