China Mobile to vie with Apple, Google apps stores

China Mobile, the world's largest mobile phone service provider, plans to open its own mobile applications store similar to those run by Apple for the iPhone and Google for its Android operating system.

"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," said Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile's chairman and CEO, at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress in Macau, China.

China Mobile sells handsets from most major vendors, so software support will likely be available for a range of OSes, including Linux and Symbian. Wang cited Apple's success with the iPhone's Apps Store as one reason for China Mobile's interest in building a similar service.

China Mobile boasts over 436.1 million subscribers, a figure higher than the population of the U.S.

The huge subscriber base gives China Mobile clout, and the company has long made clear that it plans to use the advantage to build its own services instead of relying on others.

Mobile music is one area the company has already taken over in China.

The company's music revenue has reached $12 billion, "plus, it has huge potential for growth," said Wang.

Wang did not elaborate on the figure. A China Mobile aide said the figure likely included all sales of ringtones and songs since the mobile music service began in early 2006, but said he was not exactly sure what was included in his chairman's comment.

China Mobile hosts a music download site at www.12530.com.

During the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the music service faced its heaviest downloading in the shortest period of time yet. The Olympic theme song "You and Me" was downloaded by nearly 5 million subscribers within 26 hours of its first performance at the Opening Ceremony of the Games.

China Mobile charged just 2 Chinese renminbi (US$0.29) each for the song, which could be downloaded via the mobile site or by sending the company an SMS (Short Message Service) with the words "Theme Song" to a specified phone number.

Songs on the 12530.com Web site generally cost 2 renminbi each.

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