iPhone 3G launch in Taiwan may foretell China debut

Chunghwa Telecom will launch Apple's iPhone 3G in Taiwan, and the deal may foretell a China debut.

Taiwan's largest mobile phone service provider will launch the iPhone 3G in December, a deal that may foretell a launch in China soon.

Chunghwa Telecom finalized a deal to be the sole supplier of Apple's iPhone 3G in Taiwan, the company said in a statement Saturday. The popular smartphone will be available by the end of next month.

The company indicated that it will be part of the third round of Apple's global iPhone 3G rollout.

Apple in late August concluded the second phase by adding 21 new countries to the iPhone 3G fold, including Argentina, Estonia, Slovakia and Uruguay.

The third round could include China.

Taiwanese mobile phone service providers never launched the original iPhone because a Chinese language input system for the device had not yet been developed. Two Taiwanese executives at the time said the iPhone would launch in China first because the Chinese language input system, Pinyin, would be finished before the one for Taiwan, Zhuyin (Bopomofo).

They said Apple was more interested in China for its much larger market, so the company was putting more resources into finishing the Pinyin input system first.

The announcement of the iPhone 3G in Taiwan means the Chinese language systems for both the China version and Taiwan version are likely finished.

There have been other signs an iPhone 3G deal may be nearing completion in China.

A few Web sites that closely track Apple said the company posted a job listing for an iPhone quality assurance engineer in Beijing.

But the link they supply to Apple's Web site goes to a page that says, 'This job is no longer posted'.

A Chinese language input system makes a big difference to operators in Chinese speaking nations.

The company that launched the BlackBerry in Taiwan last year blamed slow sales on a lack of Chinese (Zhuyin) input software. Executives at Taiwan Mobile said it could have sold three times as many of the handsets had they come with a Chinese input system.

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Dan Nystedt

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