Apple Inc. (AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (CHL)…China Just Put This Tech Company in The ‘Hot Seat’

Well, it seems China is at it again. China National Radio chastised Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) yesterday for not following a national warranty law for its Surface Pro tablets. The criticism comes on the heels of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) getting rebuked for poor customer service in China.

Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Bloomberg first reported on China’s criticism of the Surface warranty, and said that the national warranty law China is referring to is for notebook computers (which would seem to exclude tablets). That law says that notebooks must have a one-year repair warranty and two-year warranty for the main parts of the computer.

It’s hard not to draw a connection between China’s public criticism of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) a few weeks ago and the new attack on Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) this week. Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to China’s disapproval by issuing an apology for its customer service in China after two weeks of repeated disparaging comments from Chinese press and celebrities. The apology statement also said that Apple would make its warranty more clear, would update the warranty policy for the iPhone 4 and 4S and provide more training and oversight to Apple Authorized Service Providers. The apology has, so far, taken Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) off of China’s naughty list.

What’s odd about the criticism of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s warranty policy is that the Surface tablet launched in China back in October and the Pro and new Chinese Surface version just launched in the country. This means that the products would be covered under Microsoft’s most comprehensive warranty right now. It’s hard to imagine that many of Microsoft’s tablets are falling apart and being returned for service so soon after their launch.

But the big question for investors is why the Chinese government and the press are targeting American tech companies. Some have speculated that the Chinese government is retaliating because Congress forbid American telecom companies from buying certain parts from Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei due to security concerns.

As competition heats up in the technology space, the Chinese government may be protecting its own interests as well. China owns about two-thirds of the world’s largest telecom company, China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL), and parts of other Chinese tech companies. Bashing Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) could directly or indirectly benefit Chinese technology companies, or help foster better deals between American and Chinese companies.

Although the reasoning behind the attacks may not be clear, the importance for companies like Microsoft and Apple to receive positive (or at least neutral) press in China, is. China is now the largest mobile market and American tech companies can’t afford to lose face in the country. If the attacks keep coming against Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer may want to follow Apple’s lead and issue an apology. Investors should keep an eye on China’s public criticism of tech companies closely, as their attacks could sway public opinion of products and services in the country. So far, it hasn’t seemed to hurt Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) or Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s sales, but further attacks could have negative results for both.

The article China Puts Another Tech Company in the Hot Seat originally appeared on

Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, China Mobile, and Microsoft.

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