An O for an I?

8:00 AM -- With China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) looking likely to launch the iPhone into the Chinese market, China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) is reportedly planning to unveil its own next-generation smartphone offering to counter the appeal of the iconic Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) device.

China Mobile is testing a device based on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android platform, according to a ChinaTechNews report.

The device has been dubbed, rather inventively, the OPhone.

Initially the device will be built to work on EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) networks, the report claims, but a 3G TD-SCDMA version should be ready for launch by the end of 2009. China Mobile is already hard at work building out its TD-SCDMA networks. (See China’s Operators Prep Next 3G Wave and China Mobile's Ahead of Schedule.)

Light Reading is aware that China Mobile's labs are awash with Android applications, and, with Android, comes a growing international apps developer community. That means China Mobile's customers should have an extensive choice of applications for the new device.

In parallel, China Mobile has created a Browser-based Application Engine (BAE) that enables apps developed for one operating system to work on others, according to an Interfax China report.

With these developments, China Mobile is building a huge pool of possible apps, and, more significantly, a real differentiator for its own apps store, which the report claims will be called "Mobile Market."

Most mobile operators have so far shied away from launching their own apps stores. It's believed that control over the apps store was a major stumbling block in China Mobile's abandoned negotiations with Apple in 2007. The same issue has been cited as a stumbling block in China Unicom's ongoing dialogue with the iPhone firm.

Undoubtedly, operators around the world will be paying close attention to see if China Mobile can make its approach pay.

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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