Apple Ranks as China’s Most Desirable Luxury Brand

A visitor photographs a red Apple logo with an iPhone at the Apple Store in Berlin, Germany

Apple appears to know the secret for capturing the hearts of Chinese customers.

In China, iPhones not only outsold all other smartphones in the fourth quarter, it also beat Louis Vuitton and Hermès to become the most preferred gift choice among the country’s richest this year, according to China-based luxury publishing group Hurun Research.

While the Chinese government’s crackdown on luxury gifts has weighed on the country’s spending on luxury goods, it also changed the spending habit of China’s wealthy people who now prefer more practical items like iPhones and watches, said the publishing group.

“The upcoming Chinese New Year would be the peak of gift giving in China…..Apple has become the most eye-catching gift brand this year,” Hurun Research said in a statement.

Apple’s South Korean rival Samsung also entered the top ten luxury gift brand choice for the first time as China’s wealthy people are now more interested in consumer electronics.

“Apple’s positioning in Chinese consumers’ minds is getting stronger. Apple Watch should definitely benefit from this position,” said Neil Shah, analyst at Hong Kong-based Counterpoint research.

While there is no doubt that Apple has done an excellent job of brand building in China, the technology company still has lots of room to grow in Central and Western China where the wealthy respondents told Hurun Research that they don’t have much passion for Apple’s products.

Apple currently operates 15 retail stores in China and more than half of them are located in Beijing, Shanghai and other coastal areas.

Apple declined to comment on the Hurun report.

Best Brand for Men Gifts
     2Louis Vuitton
Best Brand for Women Gifts
     3Louis Vuitton
     8Giorgio Armani
Source: Hurun’s Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey 2015

Google Gives $775,000 to Nonprofit for Tech Diversity

CODE2040 said Monday it received $775,000 in grants from the tech giant to support the launch of free training programs for more than 5,000 black and Latino college engineering students over the next two years. The grants will also help the nonprofit expand its efforts into Austin, Texas; Durham, N.C.; and Chicago.

Google has released data as part of a growing conversation around the lack of diversity inside most of the largest and most influential tech companies. The search giant said in its first diversity report last year two-thirds of its employees are men and more than 60% are white, figures that a top executive said reflected a disappointing lack of diversity. A range of companies, from Apple to Pinterest, soon followed in disclosing their own disappointing numbers of women and minorities in their ranks.

CODE2040, founded in 2012, is one of several nonprofit groups partnering with tech giants. The San Francisco-based group says it has graduated nearly 50 fellows through its mentorship program, many of whom have gone on to work at companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Jawbone. The group’s name refers to the year when the population of minorities in the U.S. is projected to surpass that of whites.

One of Google’s grants will help CODE2040 create a program aimed at training black and Latino students how to apply for an interview for a technical job or internship. Laura Weidman Powers, the group’s co-founder and chief executive, said minorities are often at a disadvantage when seeking out and interviewing for jobs because they lack instruction on how to prepare.

“One of the reasons that there is this opportunity gap for black and Latino engineers is that they have a smaller relevant network and fewer resources and insight around what’s required to get jobs in tech,” Powers said.

The technical-applicant program will begin this year and provide mentorship and training during one-day workshops, where students interact with tech professionals, and through an online course.

CODE2040 has received a total of nearly $4 million in funding in the form of grants from groups including the Knight Foundation as well as corporate sponsorships from Airbnb and others. It was one of three nonprofits working to improve tech diversity to which prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen pledged $500,000 in a series of grants last year.

Google’s other grant will help the nonprofit expand its efforts in cities outside of Silicon Valley. Starting this year in Chicago, Austin and Durham, the group will give one black or Latino entrepreneur in each city a one-year stipend, workspace and tools to build their startup. In exchange, CODE2040 and Google will lean on them to come up with ways to help bridge the divide between their city’s minority populations and its tech community.

“The idea is that you inspire youth who might not be thinking about this as a career path,” said John Lyman, head of partnerships at Google for Entrepreneurs, a unit of the search giant that offers support for tech startups.

Powers said she is encouraged by signs that the largest tech companies are now committing actual resources to tech’s diversity problem. Intel’s chief executive, Brian Krzanich last month announced an ambitious new goal for the chipmaker to reach “full representation” of women and underrepresented minorities in the company’s U.S. workforce by 2020, and pledged $300 million toward projects that help them get there.

“The progress around transparency and willingness to talk about this issue of diversity in tech has been huge over the last year,” Powers said. “What I’m hoping will be the next step is a willingness to be honest about what’s working and what isn’t.”