Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mobile-phone networks vie for the Apple iPad

APPLE executives will jet into Britain this week for crunch talks with mobile-phone companies over which network will sign up its iPad tablet computer. The gadget giant said last week that its new device will go on sale in America from April 3 and come to Britain later in the month. However, unlike in 2007 when O2 was selected as the network for its iPhone, Apple is not expected to choose a single provider this time. Even so, because of the buzz and data revenues that Apple’s popular devices generate, Vodafone, Orange and O2 — all of which now carry the iPhone — are particularly anxious not to be left behind. The iPad is expected to build on the early success of e-readers from Sony and Amazon. It has already signed deals with publishers including Hachette, Harper Collins and Penguin to sell digital versions of their books.

Lengthy talks have also been held with film studios and newspaper publishers to provide downloadable versions of their content to the device. Sources say that mobile-phone carriers have already had preliminary discussions about the iPad with Apple but nothing has been decided on price. In contrast to other handset makers, Apple commands up to 30% of data revenues from the networks, as well as a share of sales of the 150,000 applications downloaded from its App Store. Because iPhone customers consume three times as much data as other mobile users, O2’s network struggled to cope with demand. Talks are scheduled to run into next week. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, is not part of the delegation. Sales of the iPad are forecast to start slowly. Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, has the most bullish prediction, pencilling in 6m sales in 2010. That compares with 52.4m iPods and 25.1m iPhones sold by Apple worldwide in the past year.

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