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China Mobile, Apple CEO discuss possible 'cooperation'

Tim Cook's meeting with China Mobile's chairman Xi Guohua touched on issues related to potential partnership, which could see the world's largest mobile operator finally distributing Apple products in the country.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
China Mobile is the only carrier in the market not to offer Apple products.

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with China Mobile this week to discuss opportunities for partnership which, if inked, could see the Chinese operator finally distributing Apple products. 

According to a Reuters report, China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua and Cook met up in Beijing to talk about issues related to potential "cooperation". Citing an e-mail statement from the Chinese carrier, the report said no further details were provided. China Mobile, with over 740 million subscribers, is the world's largest mobile operator and is the only carrier in China not to offer Apple iPhone and iPad. 

If successful, the meeting with Xi could result in a deal that would finally see the Chinese mobile operator distributing Apple products. The move could benefit both companies, boosting sales for Apple which saw a 43 percent dip in sales in China between April and June, as well as China Mobile which posted largely flat growth in its first-quarter 2013 earnings. 

According to Reuters, the Chinese mobile carrier was seeing increasing pressures from low 3G adoption in the country as mobile customers move from SMS to mobile messaging apps such as Tencent's WeChat, which has over 300 million users in China.

Despite the fact it does not officially distribute Apple products, China Mobile last year had over 15 million iPhone users on its network. 

Cook also met with China Telecom President Yang Jie during his Beijing visit, the operator confirmed, but did not offer any details other than to say the two executives discussed cooperation on future products.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed Cook was in the country for business meetings, adding that Greater China was the U.S. company's second largest market, according to Reuters. 

China accounts for 13 percent of Apple's quarterly sales, and Cook in January declared that the Asian economy will be the company's largest market in the future.

The iPhone maker, though, has had a challenging time in the Chinese market. In March, local media lashed out at Apple's discriminatory policies and indifference toward Chinese consumers, alleging the company was distributing defective products. It prompted Cook to issue a formal apology on Apple's Chinese website for its less-than-adequate repair and warranty policy. 

Stats released last month by China Internet Network Information Center put the country's Internet population at a record-high of 591 million, of which 80 percent surfed the Web via mobile devices. 

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