Apple Picks New Chief for One Its Toughest Markets: China

By Alyssa Abkowitz Features Dow Jones Newswires

Apple Inc. has created--and filled--an executive role to oversee its operations in China, where the tech behemoth faces a range of challenges, including increasingly fierce competition from domestic rivals.

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Isabel Ge Mahe was named vice president and managing director of Greater China, reporting to Chief Executive Tim Cook and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, the Cupertino, Calif., company said. Greater China typically includes the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Ms. Ge Mahe, who currently serves as vice president of wireless technologies, will manage the iPhone maker's government relations, its research-and-development centers and China-specific features for Apple devices.

"So many companies get the market wrong, so to have somebody who is from China, understands Apple and has a real leadership role is a really smart move," said Chris DeAngelis, Beijing-based general manager of Alliance Development Group, which advises companies on China market strategies.

Ms. Ge Mahe was involved in developing new China-specific features for its iOS 11 operating system, including the ability to scan the square quick-response, or QR, codes widely used to pay utility bills and restaurant tabs, for example. She also worked on features that will allow customers to use their phone number as an Apple ID and filter out text-message scams that inundate many Chinese smartphone users.

The appointment comes as Apple contends with declining market share in China and tighter scrutiny from government authorities over the company's operations. Last week, the Apple said it would begin storing all cloud data for its customers here with a government-owned company, relinquishing some control over its Chinese data.

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In the first quarter, shipments of iPhones to China dropped 27% year over year, according to the most recent data from research firm IDC.

Chinese authorities shut down Apple's book and movie services last year, without giving a reason. Homegrown messaging apps such as Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s WeChat are challenging Apple's App Store, whose biggest market last year was China.

Ms. Ge Mahe, who is from the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, will be based at Apple's offices in Shanghai, the company said.

Tripp Mickle in San Francisco contributed to this article

Write to Alyssa Abkowitz at alyssa.abkowitz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 19, 2017 06:47 ET (10:47 GMT)