Apple Inc is calling a London news conference next Tuesday as speculation mounts that the consumer electronics guru will unveil long-awaited plans to bring its iconic iPhone cell phones to Europe.
Apple, whose slick, touch-screen device combines its popular iPod music player, a video player and Web browser, is expected to hand a UK sale deal to Spanish Telefonica's O2 UK unit, a German deal to Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile and a French deal to France Telecom's Orange.
Apple declined to divulge details about the planned news conference in London, and an Apple spokesman in Germany said only that the company would announce which telecoms operators had clinched the sales deal by the end of September.
Telefonica, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom have maintained a strict silence about any deal.
But analysts are expecting initial exclusive transactions in the run-up to the key Christmas trading period to give Apple a share of data revenues and, in an unprecedented move, a share of voice revenues generated by the new phones.
Steve Jobs, the Apple chief executive who helped found the company in the 1970s, has staked his reputation on the second-generation (2G) phone and music player catching the imagination of customers in the same way his iPod has.
But although iPhones flew off the shelves when they first went on sale amid much fanfare in the U.S. in late June, Apple slashed the price of its $599 model to $399 last week, sending its stock falling on market concerns that sales were slowing.
Jobs attempted to calm angry customers who had paid top dollar by offering them a $100 store credit. A few days later, the company announced it had sold a million iPhones in the U.S. -- ahead of its end-September target.
Apple, which has said it plans to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008, has signed up the top U.S. operator AT&T Inc to distribute the device in the United States.
(Additional reporting by Jens Hack in Munich)