The rest of the world may be buzzing about Steve Jobs’ announcement that he will retire as CEO of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), but my attention has been captured by a smaller piece of news that Apple may soon enter the low-cost smartphone business. Apple never discusses its future plans, and accordingly this latest piece of news is only gossip so far, citing two knowledgeable sources saying a low-cost version of the iPhone 4 is now being developed to go head-to-head with a segment of the market now dominated by phones running on Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) free Android operating system. (English article) If true, such a development could provide not only headaches for Google and Android, but also for the growing field of Chinese smartphone makers that have relied on the free operating system to develop low-cost models favored not only in developing markets like China, but also by cost-conscious consumers in developed markets like the US and Western Europe. Up-and-comer ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063) would be most vulnerable to such a move by Apple, having staked its future on grabbing global market share with its low-cost Android based smartphones. Other companies that look vulnerable include Lenovo (HKEx: 992), whose young smartphone initiative is already sputtering just a year after its launch, and ZTE rival Huawei, which is also trying to make a splash with smartphones as growth for its older telecoms equipment business starts to slow. Such a move by Apple could also hit the prospects of TCL Communications (HKEx: 2618), whose cellphone business has posted a strong comeback in the last year after taking a serious hit after it acquired money-losing assets from Alcatel (Paris: ALUA) six years ago. I actually know the Reuters reporters who wrote the Apple low-cost iPhone story, and both are quite reliable so I’m fairly confident it’s only a matter of time before low-end iPhones hit the market. If and when that happens, look for the Chinese smartphone makers to suffer big headaches as a result.
Bottom line: Apple’s launch of a low-end iPhone could further cement its dominance in the global smartphone market, at the expense of Chinese players like ZTE, Lenovo and Huawei.
当人们热议乔布斯辞去苹果(AAPL.O)首席执行官（CEO）职务时，我关注的新闻是，苹果或即将打入低端智能手机市场。苹果从不讨论其未来计划，但两名消息人士透露，苹果正在研发低端版iPhone 4，将与谷歌(GOOG.O)Android操作系统手机占据的一部分市场进行正面交锋。尽管这还只是传闻，但如果消息属实，这一研发不仅让谷歌和Android业者头痛，也会让中国智能手机制造商苦不堪言。後者依赖免费的Android操作系统，研发低成本机型，这些低端机型不仅受到中国等发展中国家青睐，在美国和西欧等发达市场，也受到节俭消费者的欢迎。苹果此举或让中兴通讯(0763.HK)(000063.SZ)最“受伤”。中兴将公司未来押宝在利用低端Android智能手机掠夺全球市场的战略上。其它容易受创的公司包括联想(0992.HK)和华为。联想启动仅一年的智能手机项目已取得不俗成效，华为则因电信设备业务增长放缓，同样试图推智能手机业务提振业绩。苹果推低端版iPhone也会对TCL通讯(2618.HK)发展造成影响，TCL通讯六年前收购阿尔卡特-朗讯(ALUA.PA)亏损的手机资产後一度严重受创，但去年该部门业绩强势反弹。我认识报导苹果可能推低端版iPhone手机消息的两位路透记者，他们的消息都很可靠，所以我很有理由相信，该款手机上市只是时间问题。如果苹果发布低端版iPhone 4，我预计将让中国智能手机商极为头痛。
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