In a revealing interview with Kai-Fu Lee, President of Google (GOOG) China, PBS's Margaret Warner extracted some valuable information regarding the Chinese Internet explosion. Lee predicts that a quarter of China's 1.3 billion people will be online by year's end.
They're not just more numerous than in the United States. They're different. The average American user is 45 while the average Chinese user is 25. Even though the Chinese economy is rapidly increasing the size of the middle class, these young users still don't own their own computers. Internet cafes are open 24 hours a day and for most of those 24 hours they are packed with young customers engrossed in games, movies, music videos, and chat rooms.
The Chinese are craving an inexpensive Internet device to further liberate their access to information, entertainment, and communication. Perhaps an alternative to the western world's use of laptop computers will fuel a revolutionary wave of Chinese gadget obsession.
They love their gadgets. Before the government intervened with the China Mobile monopoly, the company reported 574 million mobile subscribers back in March; the number of mobile subscribers is expected to grow to 738 million by 2010. To put that number in proper perspective consider that the entire US population is just over 300 million. Capturing the Chinese market is the prize of all prizes.
To win the Chinese prize one must cater to the Internet demand of the young Chinese but do so on a culturally accepted platform. Computer ownership is not culturally accepted. Cellphone ownership is. That's where Apple's (AAPL) new 3G iPhone comes in. Back on May 24th Chinese officials announced their intention to issue three licenses for mobile phone 3G technology and they promised to provide 3G services for the Olympic Games in August. Investors must be careful not to throw a pending agreement between Apple and China in with the rest of the international batch.
China is different. The inexpensive iPhone caters to the hundreds of millions of people who will trade in their current cellphones for their first ever opportunity of owning a mini-computer. The iPhone launch in China represents the most significant technological product release of our generation; not only financially for Apple but culturally for China as 7 out of every 8 households goes without a computer. Will Apple bite the bullet and advertise the iPhone as a laptop alternative in China? We'll see.
Following Steve Jobs' introduction of the 3G iPhone, he clearly stated that he sees China and Russia iPhone distribution deals being completed by year end. This is the ultimate catalyst for investors looking to buy stock of a company which can overcome the broad market weakness caused by high oil, troubled financials, and declining real estate. The Chinese iPhone sales will help drive Apple stock to $300 a share in 2009. We are in a stock pickers environment where high growth will be rewarded. Buy AAPL ahead of the finalized Apple-China mobile agreement.
Disclosure: Long AAPL.