Back in May, Apple invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing
, Uber’s biggest ride-hailing competition in China, in a major and unexpected deal.
On the Q3 2016 earnings call with Wall Street analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed the investment. He said:
It was an unusual investment, we don’t have a long history of doing a lot of these, we invested in ARM in the early days, we invested in Akamai, so it wasn’t the first. One great financial investment, some strategic things the companies can do together over time. We think we’ll learn a lot about the business and the Chinese market even beyond what we currently know.
Cook is referring to ARM, the designer of chips for the iPhone and iPad (which was just bought by Softbank), and Akamai, the content-delivery system that Apple has used for the past 15 years or so to smoothly deliver iTunes video and music to customers.
In both cases, Apple was actually using these companies’ technology to build or improve its own products.
So where does this deal with Didi Chuxing fit in, given those past deals? Right now, it doesn’t make much sense.
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently announced his master plan to let Tesla owners rent their self-driving cars out to strangers as part of a ride-hailing program.
With Apple rumoured to be working on its own electric and/or self-driving vehicle, maybe Cook and Apple are thinking along similar lines, and Didi Chuxing could one day be part of a platform that lets you hail a self-driving Apple Car.
Or maybe it’s a coincidence.
But both examples Cook gave were very strategic investments for Apple in making sure that they had a very close-knit relationship with the providers of some of their most important technology.