Apple CEO Tim Cook visits France’s Eldim, company providing iPhone X optical recognition technology

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In advance of a meeting today with French president Emmanuel Macron, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a surprise visit to a small company in the northwest of France that’s providing crucial optical recognition technology for the iPhone X.

Eldim, based near the Normandy town of Caen, has been making various types of display technology for more than 30 years. More recently, that has evolved into making components that allow for “optical analysis of angular characteristics.” It’s apparently a version of this technology that’s one of the critical components being used by Apple in the new Face ID system for the iPhone X.

Local press were invited to tag along for the visit which they documented on Twitter and blog posts. A reporter for Ouest France noted that in the course of the visit, executives said the two companies had actually been working together for almost a decade, mostly in an R&D capacity. It was only with the release of the iPhone X that the facial recognition system is being baked into a product.

Eldim CEO told reporters that working with Apple was “an incredible adventure,” but also a huge technical challenge over the years. “For us, it was a little like sending someone to the moon,” Leroux told reporters. To which Cook responded, “It’s great what you have done for us.”

The visit was no doubt a thrill for Eldim’s 42 employees. It was also likely a diplomatic move by Cook, who is scheduled to meet with Macron at 4:15 p.m. Paris time today. The official agenda for their meeting has not been disclosed, but it’s likely to cover the question of Apple’s tax payments in France and Europe in general.

While Macron has cultivated a pro-tech and pro-entrepreneur reputation, he also has been a fierce critic of American tech companies not paying sufficient taxes. Apple is facing a demand to pay $15 billion in taxes to Ireland following a European Union investigation that found its tax structure there violated EU competition rules.

Macron is among the European leaders pressing the EU to develop a new taxation scheme for tech giants that makes it more difficult for them to duck taxes by creating elaborate systems of corporate shell companies.

Cook and other leaders in response have been eager to highlight their positive economic impact in terms of job creation across Europe. The visit to Eldim serving as just one such example.

Cook was getting a little ribbing by the French on Twitter for this tweet.

It should read: “Bravo pour votre travail!” He deleted that one and posted a corrected version:

The French are pretty hardcore about this stuff.

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