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ROME Cheap TJ Brodie Hat , Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The CEO of U.S. technology powerhouse Apple Inc. announced Friday the company will open its first European center for
developing software for mobile devices in Italy, a surprise announcement
described only in broad strokes and that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
said could help turn Italy into a new European tech center.

But expert observers told Xinhua Italy would have to improve the country's business climate in order for Renzi's vision to come to fruition.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, announced the initiative after meeting with Renzi in Palazzo Chigi, the official residence of Italian head of
government. In his remarks, Cook said Italy's potential as a high-tech center
was on the rise.

"We're thrilled to be helping the next generation of entrepreneurs in Italy get the skills they need for success," Cook said.

A release from the company said the center would help develop new software for iOS, Apple's mobile operating system used for iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

The unheralded plan surprised many Italian observers, but was missing many key details: no word from Apple or the Italian government when the center will
open, for example. The announcement from Apple says there will be a "partner
institution" in Naples, but it does not identify the partner. There is no
indication how much money will be invested in the new center, or if the Italian
government will foot part of the bill.

"This could be a big deal for Italy in and of itself, but the big surprise it the way it suddenly appeared like a gift," Raffaele Barberio, director of
Key4biz, a leading telecommunications and technology information site, said in
an interview.

"But we know almost nothing about it," Barberio went on. "Tim Cook flew in from Brussels and made this announcement. Now we have to see how it plays out."

Cook was in Brussels as part of Apple's lobbying effort related to a European Union tax probe that could ultimately cost the company more than 8 billion U.S.
dollars, with some estimates as high as 19 billion dollars.

In his meetings with European Union officials, Cook stressed Apple's economic role in Europe, where the company directly employs 22,000 workers and indirectly
helps employ 1 million more, including software developers and product
resellers. Cook said more than 1.4 million jobs in Europe depends on Apple

The center in Naples, when it opens, will broaden those numbers even further: Apple said 600 students a year will be trained at the center.

Pietro Paganini, director of the Competere think tank, said he was puzzled by Apple's hasty announcement, but said Italy would have to make serious reforms
before it can hope to attract other tech giants.

"The factors that attract companies to a country the most are limited bureaucracy, first and foremost, followed by an efficient justice system, and
competitive tax rates and Italy falls short on all three," Paganini told Xinhua.
"That has to improve."

The new developments come three weeks after Apple reached a 317-million-euro (345-million-U.S.-dollars) settlement with Italian tax officials covering the
period between. Tax officials had been seeking 879 million euros (955 million
U.S. dollars). Cook had previously been critical of Italy's investigation into
Apple's tax bill, but the topic was not broached during the CEO's quick stop in

Apple officials declined to comment about the company's plans in Italy when contacted by Xinhua. (1 euro=1.08 U.S. dollar)

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Posted 08 May 2019

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