China Mobile, Apple Not Yet In Talks Over iPhone


China Mobile, the country's largest mobile phone operator, and Apple, the maker of the iPhone, are not currently in formal negotiations to bring the popular gadget to China, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou brought up issues relating business models and commercialization as areas that may have caused a delay in the product's introduction, but offered an optimistic outlook for future negotiations. "Our door will remain open as long as there is customer demand," Wang told an audience while speaking the 2008 Boao Forum for Asia. Wang did not offer a timetable for possible negotiations.

Talks between China Mobile and Apple collapsed in mid-January, when a China Mobile spokeswoman Li Honghui told the Associated Press negotiations had ended. Apple had reportedly been pushing a revenue sharing model China Mobile considered unfair. While official talks have yet to resume, that hasn't stopped the Chinese consumer's appetite for Apple.

In February, the communications research company In-Stat reported that China Mobile knew of 400,000 activated Phones on its network at the end of 2007, suggesting a booming gray market that has likely continued to proliferate. Apple had been working to enter the Chinese market by the end of 2007.

With China being one of the world's fastest-growing cell phone markets (nearly 600 million Chinese will be using mobile phones this year) Apple may find itself lodged in a difficult negotiating position, as China Mobile continues to derive revenue from unlocked iPhone's without need for an Apple partnership.

Indeed, Wang expressed confidence China Mobile's market would continue to expand. He told Xinhua, China's official news agency, the current number of China Mobile customers exceeds 380 million and continues to expand monthly, with growth augmented by customers in rural areas.