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iOS 7 to Help Apple Inc. Conquer China

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China Mobile Ltd. and Renault SA also make the news.

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China Watch: Top Business News From the World's Second Largest Economy

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) made waves this week in the tech world with the introduction of its new iOS 7 software, which has garnered some polarizing reviews.

But it appears that Cupertino had China firmly in its sight with iOS 7. The latest version of Apple's operating system is said to be better integrated with leading Chinese applications, such as Tencent Holdings Ltd's (HKG:0700) popular micro-blogging service, Weibo.

iOS 7 also features a Chinese-English bilingual dictionary and upgraded Chinese language input that offers handwriting recognition for Chinese characters.

"I think Chinese consumers will like iOS 7," Ben Bajarin, the director of consumer technology research at market intelligence firm Creative Strategies, told the South China Morning Post. "Apple's commitment to focus on China-specific innovations in software and services will continue to help drive stickiness [to its mobile platform]."

Apple had begun offering support to Chinese apps and websites beginning with iOS 6, which featured integration with SINA Corp's (NASDAQ:SINA) Weibo , Baidu.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDU), and Youku Tudou Inc (NYSE:YOKU).

China Mobile Debuts Skype Challenger

Earlier this month, China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE:CHL) introduced its new voice-calling app, Jego, which appears to be aimed at expanding the brand's global appeal.

Jego allows users from outside the mainland to call China landline and mobile numbers for free, thus possibly serving as a challenge to Skype's dominance in the free voice-calling arena.

Jego is already available for download on Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play, and more notably, on Apple's iTunes store as well.

Given that China Mobile's talks with Apple to carry the iPhone had reached a stalemate, the fact that Apple is willing to offer Jego on iTunes portends a possible iPhone agreement on the horizon, says the Financial Times.

"The move to offer Jego in the iTunes store shows the two sides are beginning to cooperate and may even be a subtle hint they have come to a tentative agreement on the widely anticipated mid-priced iPhone that Apple may roll out this summer," the Financial Times cites Bill Fan, technology and telecoms analyst at Guosen Securities in Hong Kong, as saying.

Renault Ponders Electric Car Production in China

To further penetrate the China market, French car maker Renault SA (EPA:RNO) has proposed a $1.2 billion joint venture with China's Dongfeng Motor Group Co. Ltd (HKG:0489) . As part of the JV, Renault may produce electric vehicles in China.

The JV, now awaiting approval from Chinese authorities, will produce some 150,000 passenger vehicles each year, including sport utility and multi-purpose vehicles.

"It was for us a competitive advantage and very nice coincidence that the Chinese authorities request that we bring EV technology to the JV we have with Dongfeng," Renault COO Carlos Tavares told the Wall Street Journal, adding that his company "is the only car maker in the world with four electric vehicles on sale" - the new Zoe, the Twizy, Kangoo, and Fluence.

Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co Ltd (NYSE:HMC) said this week that it will postpone production of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles in China in an attempt to source cheaper components from Chinese suppliers. Honda's announcement comes after Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE:TM) said in May that it was also sourcing parts in China to bring down the price of hybrid vehicles.

Hong Kong Company Granted Right to Build Long-Envisioned Nicaragua Canal

Hong Kong company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., known as HKND Group, was granted the right by Nicaraguan lawmakers to build a $40 billion interoceanic canal.

The project was long been a subject of discussion for Nicaragua, with opinions sharply divided over it.

"The whole history of Nicaragua revolves around this," said Paul Oquist, President Daniel Ortega's private secretary for national policy, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We see the project taking the country out of poverty and underdevelopment."

On the other hand, critics of the project say that it will end up a white elephant, as it is unclear if the canal can beat out stiff competition for traffic from the Panama Canal and road and rail transport in the US. Additionally, environmentalists say that the canal would destroy the fresh waters of Lake Nicaragua.

The renewable 50-year concession signed by HKND and Nicaragua sees the company paying the country up to $10 million each year. After 10 years, Nicaragua will own 10% of the firm and can take control of it completely in another 90 years.

HKND is solely owned by 40-year-old Beijing-based entrepreneur Wang Jing, who will foot the bill for the project's feasibility study and who will find sources for funding when work begins.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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