KT to Introduce Apple’s iPad by June

Apple Inc.’s iPad is seen in this file photo, while Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the bottom explains about the iPad. KT is in talks to launch the iPad in the first half of this year at the earliest. / Korea Times File

padang ekspres net-KT, the South Korean exclusive partner to sell Apple's iPhones on the local market, plans to launch Wi-Fi and 3G-based iPads in the first half of this year at the earliest.

All Apple iPads including Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+3G models, could be available in the domestic market by June, industry sources told The Korea Times Monday.

"KT has been engaged in deep talks with the California-based consumer electronics maker to sell the tablet PCs possibly from sometime in the first half," a high-ranking industry official said, asking not to be identified.

"We are initially considering launching the Wi-Fi only models, which don't require a wireless network from telecom carriers, as a litmus test soon," the official said, adding that models supporting both Wi-Fi and 3G will follow.

The remarks came in a few days after KT Executive Vice President Yang Hyun-mi said in a recent press conference that the carrier is seriously reviewing ways to introduce the iPads on the domestic market to actively respond with growing consumer demands.

A KT spokeswoman has admitted that it has contacted with the U.S. company over the plans, citing the increased awareness from hopefuls in South Korea, the world's most-wired country where some 90 percent out of the total 45 million people has Internet literacy.

Steve Park, a representative of Apple's South Korean branch, said he hasn't been alerted over any updated detail for the iPad arrival here.

"iPad will be available in the U.S and nine other countries and will be shipped to additional countries within this year, Apple has not announced a launch date for iPad in Korea yet," Park said.

When asked about a question over the support of Korean language service for the eventually upcoming iPads in the local market, Park was mum.

Apple made the iPad available for pre-order on March 12. Some 120,000 units of the devices have been sold, giving it $75 million in sales just for that day.

Apple said all 16GB-, 32GB- and 64GB-based iPads will be available from April 3 for Wi-Fi models and in late April for Wi-Fi+3G models but initially in nine countries _ Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, in addition to the United States.

"iPads will help the local wireless-related markets get an additional growth momentum after iPhones brought some changes in the digital content service landscape," the industry official said.

"If KT introduces the iPads, the company will see better chances to reap more profits in wireless data segment," an analyst at a local brokerage of Woori Investment said.

SK Telecom's Bid

Attention is being focused on whether KT's biggest local rival SK Telecom might join the ranks of the moves in releasing the gadgets.

With KT, SK Telecom is also embracing the wireless data segment as one of its new revenue sources thanks to the boom in smartphones.

Citing SK Telecom's recent corporate focus on e-book, company officials and sources say it will take the same step pushed for by KT.

For the e-book market, SK Telecom, which owns some patented technologies for that segment, is still seeking the right partners. Considering its recent decision for an expansion of Wi-Fi zones and competitive 3G networks, the iPad launch makes sense, officials say.

"It is true that SK Telecom has been boosting 'one person electronic devices' portfolios," an SK Telecom spokeswoman Cindy Kang said, adding the iPads will be one possible option in meeting the corporate strategy.

Kang declined to comment to give further details such as the launching timing and development phase for the mutual talks.

"There is no reason for SK Telecom to take a passive stance toward the iPads. NTT DoCoMo of Japan just decided to introduce iPads in using its Wi-Fi wireless networks," an SK Telecom executive said on condition of anonymity.

E-reader manufacturers have been adding increased functionality to their devices that bring them more in alignment with tablet PCs, including Web browsers and even software development kits or SDKs for building applications.

"In the South Korean market, the domestic device manufacturers are concerned that if the iPads will succeed in the Korean market as well as the iPhone, the domestic makers' market share will shrink rapidly," a research firm, ROA Group Korea, said.



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