Apple nears Chinese iPhone deal, say reports

Talks between Apple Inc. and China's largest mobile provider are back on track according to reports Friday, putting the American company closer to selling the iPhone in the world's biggest market.

According to the Reuters and AFP wire services, officials with China Mobile Communications Corp. said that the on-again, off-again negotiations moved forward after Apple gave up on its demand for a share of subscriber revenues.

"Apple is no longer insisting on a revenue-sharing policy, so the biggest hurdle for China Mobile to bring in the iPhone has been cleared, but there are practical issues still to be resolved," China Mobile spokeswoman Rainie Lei told Reuters on Friday.

Two months ago, Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile's CEO, blamed Apple's insistence on revenue sharing for the stand-off in discussions.

However, Wang's comments were made before Apple and other mobile operators began announcing non-exclusive deals to sell the iPhone, and weeks before Apple acknowledged that it had abandoned the revenue-sharing model that it had debuted, and demanded, when it unveiled the smart phone in 2007.

Rather than share revenues, wireless carriers will take the traditional tack of subsidizing the phone's purchase price. In the U.S., for example, AT&T Inc., which remains the exclusive network operator for the iPhone, will sell the new 3G-enabled 8GB model for US$199, half as much as the $399 for the first-generation 8GB iPhone.

Earlier this month, Jobs told the CNBC cable news network that Apple would have the iPhone in China before the end of the year. "We just didn't have a chance to get [deals] closed with Russia and China," Jobs said in an interview. "Later this year, you'll see some announcements."

Apple will launch the iPhone 3G on July 11 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. The company has also said it would make the new phone available in some 70 countries by the end of 2008.

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