China Unicom will announce a long-expected deal with Apple to sell the iPhone in China on Friday. This news comes to us in a roundabout way: Reuters sourced an anonymous analyst who in turn cited an unnamed China Unicom source.
A deal with China Unicom has long been expected since local and regional China Unicom employees began leaking the news earlier in August of this year. Apple has been negotiating with Chinese telecoms, including China Mobile, for some time, but various snags -- including a requirement of the Chinese government that the iPhone not include WiFi capabilities -- have gotten in the way of a deal.
China Unicom subsidiaries began telling news sources early in August that a deal had been reached, that employees were being trained, and that the deal included an agreement to buy some 5 million iPhones. Company execs at China Unicom's headquarters have denied such a deal, however, and Apple was, as ever, mum.
The story gained legs earlier today when the Wall Street Journal reported that a deal had been reached, and the it could result in the sale of 2.9 million iPhones in 2011. The Wall Street Journal's source was one Toni Saccohaghi, an analyst with a mixed record on Apple prognostications.
Officially, China Unicom said only that the iPhone would no doubt be the topic of conversation when the firm discussed its most recent financial performance, while Apple was, as ever, mum. Neither offered confirmation (or denial) of the new Friday's the Day story.
If a Chinese iPhone deal is announced on Friday, it is not expected that the devices would be available immediately in that market, but rather as early as October or as late as some time in 2010, depending on which wave of rumors and leaked stories one takes a fancy to.