updated 09:45 am EST, Thu January 10, 2013
May hint at advancement on iPhone deal
(Updated with cellular iPad mini launch info) As a part of his ongoing tour of China, Apple CEO Tim Cook has met with the chairman of China Mobile, Xi Guohua, Reuters reports. A Mobile spokesman will only say that the two talked about "matters of cooperation" at the carrier's headquarters earlier today, and that no further details can be given out because of a confidentiality agreement. Despite being the world's biggest phone carrier in terms of subscribers, China Mobile is the only national Chinese carrier without the iPhone.
The major issue has been network compatibility. When building out its 3G network, Mobile opted for a proprietary standard, TD-SCDMA. To support it Apple would have had to build an iPhone model exclusively for one carrier, something it appears to have been unwilling to do. More recently Mobile has been constructing an LTE 4G network, which would be relatively easy for Apple to support.
The two companies have been negotiating for the iPhone since 2009. Today's meeting could signal that a Mobile iPhone is a step closer to launch, especially as technical hurdles are largely out of the way. In early December, Mobile president Yue Li noted that business issues were the main obstacle.
Reuters adds that when speaking with Chinese reporters today, Cook promised an aggressive expansion in the number of Apple Stores. "Currently, Apple has 11 stores in the Greater China region, as well as many resellers. We will continue to expand in China and the number of retail stores we'll have will exceed 25," he said.
Update: Cook has also confirmed that the cellular-equipped version of the iPad mini should ship in China later this month.