Will iPhone in China be premièred at Macworld 2009?
It would be fun to have Phil Schiller wrap up his Macworld Keynote with a … “There’s one more thing” … “We have a few special guests joining us live from Beijing”… Then on the big screen we see Steve Jobs beamed in from China … He’s holding up a special red iPhone. Sitting next to Steve is Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile’s CEO. Together they unveil the new customized iPhone for China. At least we can dream.
Following the June 2008 WWDC, CNBC’s Jim Goldman sat down for a post Keynote interview with Steve Jobs … In response to a question over when we might see iPhone in China and Russia, Steve Jobs said:(June 9, 2008):
“The two big ones we just didn’t have a chance to get closed were Russia and China… and I think you’ll see those happen later this year… we have to get through the regulatory bodies in China, which we’re in the process of doing, and I think later on this year you’ll hear some announcements. 70 countries is a lot of countries and we’re launching 22 of the biggest on July 11th”
iPhone has now made its formal début in Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But the big and still elusive “get” is China. While there are some 800,000 gray market iPhones now in use in China, these are sim-unlocked and not “officially” offered as part of a carrier deal with Apple.
What are the odds that Apple will ever offer an official iPhone in the People’s Republic of China? In Vegas odds, a formal iPhone deal in China is a sure bet. However, a January 2009 Macworld unveiling is a bit more iffy. I’d place the odds at slightly less than even money (40/60 chance) for a Macworld announcement. But a 40% chance is still decent odds.
I am looking for two (2) deals to be done in PRC (guesswork):
- Deal ONE: China Mobile – A low-cost TD iPhone 3G (a customized iPhone supporting TD-SCDMA 3G + EDGE 2.5 G and featuring China Mobile’s value added services platform [Monternet] … but no Apple app store, no wifi, no iTunes)
- Deal TWO: China Unicom – A more Standard iPhone 3G – already W-CDMA 3G enabled.
The China Unicom deal is a good fit for Apple. China Unicom (133 million subscribers) will be granted a license for the world standard W-CDMA 3G and China Unicom is eager to steal customers from China Mobile and they are more likely to do a deal closer to Apple’s terms. But China Unicom’s W-CDMA network build-out won’t be completed until late 2009. Consequently, the China Unicom “iPhone” announcement may need to come 6 months or so after an official deal announcement with the world’s largest wireless carrier – China Mobile. The surmised agreement with China Mobile is highly controversial and I would not blame anyone for doubting its existence as I’ve described (i.e. a customized TD iPhone). Customizing and effectively crippling iPhone to meet a carrier’s specs is not in Apple’s DNA. However, I view the surmised (total guess) customized TD iPhone as Apple’s prerequisite entry fee to do business in China’s controlled wireless handset market. To learn more about China Mobile’s customization plans, click > china-mobile-talking-with-accenture-to-assist-with-td-handset-acceptance
China Mobile’s parent corporation (CMCC) is “China” and there is much face to be lost if China’s home grown TD-SCDMA does not succeed. They are subsidizing 100% of the current crop of TD-SCDMA handsets to help promote the indigenous “China built” network. If Apple builds a low cost iPhone for China (ala the rumored Nano iPhone), then the low entry price point + China Mobile subsidy, could make this model accessible to hundreds of millions (literally) of China Mobile’s customers … significant majority of whom are pre-paid (not on contract) customers. The subsidy is an incentive to go on contract.
In addition to China, in the next few weeks, there is a very good chance we will hear about other iPhone launches in Asia …
We may also hear about another launch in India via BSNL
More background on iPhone in China > http://wordpress.com/tag/td-scdma/
From a September iPhonAsia post on timing of deals in China > https://idannyb.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/timing-of-an-official-iphone-in-china/