China Mobile, the service provider in talks with Apple to distribute the iPhone in the world's most populous country, is still expressing interest in selling the handset, but has plans to open its own online app store.
According to Macworld, Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile's chairman and CEO, said at a recent conference that "We will set up our own shop, and we hope, welcome all content providers to sell their software applications and games and songs and any other products in our application shop."
Cult of Mac's Ed Sutherland notes that Apple and China Mobile are still in talks to bring the handset to China, according to Wang.
Dan Nystedt of the IDG News Service speculated that China Mobile's app store would sell apps for Linux- and Symbian-based mobile phones, but it's unclear how this will affect China Mobile's burgeoning relationship with Apple.
Apple, of course, already has the iTunes store, which offers music, games and apps for the iPhone platform. China Mobile's store is unlikely to interfere technically with the iPhone/iTunes ecosystem, but it would compete financially with Apple's offering. Not that there's anything wrong with competition, of course.
An agreement with China Mobile would mean having the iPhone available to a market of 400 million existing subscribers, and perhaps millions more new subscribers. For comparison, the total population of the United States last year was just over 300 million people.