Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Apple's iPhone continues its march around the world, with new announcements

Apple's iPhone continues its march around the world, with new announcements of deals with carriers in the Asia region and Australia.

The agreements are with Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) for that country, and with three of SingTel's affiliates in India, the Philippines, and Australia. The iPhone will be released in the four countries later this year.

New Product Launches?

India's leading mobile carrier, Bharti Airtel Ltd., is 30 percent owned by SingTel and has more than 260 million mobile users in what is now the world's fastest-growing market for wireless devices and services. Optus, owned by SingTel, will make the iPhone available in Australia, and Globe Telecom, co-owned by SingTel and Ayala Corp., will be the carrier in the Philipines.

Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said Apple very carefully made a few carrier announcements in the first stages of the iPhone's release. "First, it was just AT&T, then a few European carriers," he said, adding that "now, every time you turn around they're adding a few more." He suggested this flurry of partner announcements could herald new product launches.

Apple said Monday that its online stores in the U.S. and the United Kingdom are sold out of iPhones. Selling out current inventory could also be a sign of new products on the way.

Not Exclusives

Greengart also noted that Apple seems to be changing its strategy of demanding exclusive arrangements in each country.

Last week, for example, Apple announced an agreement with Vodafone to sell the iPhone in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa, and Turkey, as well as in Australia and India, which are also covered by SingTel companies. Similarly, Apple has announced that it will be selling the iPhone in Italy through Telecom Italia in addition to Vodafone.

Some observers have noted that in developing markets, such as India, the first time many customers will access the Internet will be through an iPhone. India, for instance, has a population of more than a billion people and, although most of the country doesn't have a cell phone, the portion that does represents a large number of customers.

The announcements of more markets and more partners, however, can help Apple reach its announced goal of 10 million iPhones sold worldwide by the end of this year. As of the quarter ending March 31, Apple reported selling about 5.4 million units.

As with other recent announcements, the SingTel agreements did not mention pricing or whether the iPhone may be the 3G version. Greengart has speculated that the announcement of a 3G version will come relatively soon, so Apple can get it out in time for the holiday season.

Barry Levine,newsfactor.com

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