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Analyst: China iPhone, tablet likely to ship in 2010

updated 02:50 pm EDT, Tue August 4, 2009

China iPhone for 2010

Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu has reiterated his belief that China Unicom is the front-runner for the iPhone's introduction into the Chinese market, although the device may not be ready for a local launch until closer to the Chinese New Year in February of 2010. Wu also diverges from several other analysts regarding the rumored tablet device, which he expects to land in 2010 instead of 2009.

"While we find recent news items a positive and help confirm our checks, exact timing of a launch remains unclear to us," Wu told investors. "Based on progress made, we would be surprised if the iPhone is not launched in China officially by Chinese New Year (February 2010)."

Recent reports involving the iPhone in China have been conflicting, with several sources claiming a contract has already been signed. China Unicom contradicted the statements, however, and Wu also suggests the "final details including economics are being ironed out." Apple is expected to be more flexible in China, as the carriers typically avoid revenue sharing agreements.

"As we mentioned before, the business model is different in China where customers are more willing to pay a much higher price for the hardware up front while the monthly subscription fees are much lower," noted Wu. "All in all, we do anticipate much change to Apple's financial model as we believe the China iPhone business will likely be very profitable, as it is in the rest of the world."

Kaufman Brothers claims that Apple has been purchasing new displays in a variety of sizes for the past few years, including 4-, 7-, 9-, 10- and 12-inch variants. The supplies are said to have exceeded typical sample quantities, and are "more fitting for a small production run."

"We are under the impression that these screens could be used in new form factors including a subnotebook and/or tablet, and would more likely launch in 2010 as opposed to 2009," said Wu. "As usual, exact timing is always tough to pinpoint as Apple works on its own schedule."

An unconfirmed report suggests Steve Jobs may have switched the direction of the tablet project at least six times since the company began working on the idea several years ago. The CEO is said to have finally approved of a particular design sometime in the past six months. The device could get a 10-inch display and a form-factor inspired by the iPod touch, along with integrated 3G connectivity for data.

by MacNN Staff



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