At the WWDC keynote earlier this month, Steve Jobs proclaimed that the iPhone 3G would find its way to 70 countries before the end of the year—22 of them on the infamous July 11th. But there were a few notable absences in that giant Risk-like map of world domination—notably both of the world’s largest countries (for population *and* area).
Of course, plenty of iPhones have made their way to Russia and China on the gray market in the past year, but with Apple’s apparent intention to eventually render that distribution method toothless, it is striking that these two prominent countries are still unaccounted for (Apple has struck a separate deal to bring the iPhone 3G to Hong Kong and Macau, which are considered “special administrative regions” of the People’s Republic of China). Cupertino’s talks with Chinese operators have been rocky at best, with the country’s largest provider, China Mobile, refusing to kick back a percentage of its subscriber fees to Apple, as per AT&T’s deal at the time.
But now, with revenue sharing apparently off the table, China Mobile appears to be willing to come back for another round of negotiations. According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the company said that the absence of revenue sharing meant the “biggest hurdle” for bringing the iPhone to the country had been cleared, but there will still other issues to work out before the iPhone is available—legitimately—in the world’s most populous country. While no schedule has been set, it seems likely that the iPhone 3G will find its way to China by year’s end—leaving Russia as the largest player still missing on Steve Jobs’s map.