China may be about to see the opening of its first official Apple Store as the firm prepares to launch the iPhone in the country.
Apple currently distributes its products in China through a network of several hundred licensed dealers. Some other products, such as the original iPhone, are widely available as unofficial grey market imports.
An Apple dealer in Beijing told local news service Sina that Apple plans to open a 1,000 square metre store on three floors in a central Beijing shopping centre and office development.
While the dealer did not provide an opening date, other businesses in the new building are expected to open during July and August.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said in interviews this week that he expects the iPhone to become available in China and Russia this year.
The new iPhone 3G will go on sale in the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong on 11 July, according to Apple representatives quoted in local media.
Apple has reportedly discussed launching the iPhone in China with dominant local mobile operator China Mobile.
However, a source at China Mobile said that talks had broken down because the two companies each wanted a larger share of user revenue than the other was willing to offer.
Local sources suggest that the smaller of China's two mobile operators, China Unicom, may now be more likely to become Apple's iPhone partner.
This is based on predictions that China Unicom will received a 3G WCDMA licence from the government.
China's government is expected to allow operators to begin rolling out the country's first full-scale 3G phone networks later this year, following years of delays while a local 3G standard was developed.
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