Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook made his second visit to China in less than 10 months, after almost doubling retail outlets in the nation.
Cook met Miao Wei (苗圩), head of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, on Tuesday to talk about the development of China’s information technology industry, global mobile communications and Apple’s business in China, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site.
The Apple chief also visited China in March last year when he pledged “greater investment” in the world’s largest market for computers and mobile phones. Since then, the Cupertino, California-based company increased its number of stores in China and Hong Kong to 11 from six.
Still, the company has yet to offer the iPhone through the world’s biggest carrier, China Mobile Ltd (中國移動), which last month said Apple needs to talk about “benefit sharing” to reach agreement.
“I think there is a good chance of an agreement with Apple this year” for China Mobile to offer the iPhone, JI Asia Research Ltd analyst Neil Juggins said in an e-mail yesterday. “I would put the chances at better than 50 percent.”
China Mobile will probably move to a fourth-generation (4G) wireless network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in the second half of this year, and the iPhone will be offered on the new system, Juggins said.
Carolyn Wu, Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple, yesterday declined to comment on whether Cook would meet China Mobile during this trip.
“Tim is in Beijing meeting government officials and partners,” Wu said in a phone interview yesterday. “China is an important market. We look forward to continued customer excitement and growth here.”
Li Jun (李軍), a Beijing-based spokesman for China Mobile’s state-owned parent company, said he did not immediately have information on whether Cook was meeting with executives at the carrier this week.
China Mobile uses a homegrown third-generation (3G) network standard that has not been adopted by any other carriers, and Apple has yet to design a device for it.
Technical issues related to the standard are not the only obstacles to reaching an iPhone deal with Apple, China Mobile chief executive officer Li Yue (李悅) told a conference in Guangzhou last month.
“Besides the technical issues, the business model and benefit sharing still need further discussion,” Li said.
Apple opened its first Chinese store in Beijing’s Sanlitun District in 2008. It now has three shops each in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as ones in Chengdu and Shenzhen.
The company generated US$5.7 billion in sales in China in the quarter ended September and sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s during its weekend debut there last month.
The phones are offered through the nation’s second and third-largest carriers: China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd (中國聯通) and China Telecom Corp (中國電信).