Apple is putting together the pieces for a WiMax explosion, inking a deal with a Korean firm which promises inclusion of the technology within future Apple laptops and iPod products, a report explains.

Regular readers will know we’ve been expecting Apple to make some sort of move to embrace WiMax, and while critics of our prognostication have pointed out that deployment isn’t yet sufficiently widespread in the advanced markets, this is rapidly changing, with the standard seemingly set for prime time next year.

Korean carrier KT is offering Apple MacBooks bundled with WiBro (the Korean version of WiMax) in Korea. Apple Korea is bundling MacBooks with the KWD-U2000 WiBro modem and the KT WiBro service. 

"KT Corp., South Korea’s leading broadband service provider, said Wednesday it signed a tentative deal with Apple Corp. to cooperate in providing high-speed Internet services bundled with the U.S. company’s products," a report explains.

So why the excitement? You may recall a report in May in which we detailed the FCC disclosure of Intel’s upcoming 5350 WiFi/WiMAX combo Mini-PCI card, which fits into the MacBook Pro’s Mini-PCI card slot. So we know the technology is already there.

And InterDigital in March revealed it has signed-up Apple (and RIM) as a licensee for its 3G technologies. “We did add some very high-quality licensees including Apple, Giant, and RIM…,” the company explained.

Apple’s success in bringing new technologies to market was made most clear when it single-handedly popularised WiFi technology (AirPort) when it introduced the iBook in 1999. WiFi’s fairly popular nowadays. 

What’s the meaning of all of this? Right now, it’s not so clear – what has been agreed between Apple and KT is a memorandum of understanding between the two firms – whether this will ever emerge as a shipping technology is one thing, and the rationale for embracing WiMax in Korea may simply be an attempt to find a way to bring the iPhone to market there, as Korean law requires mobile phones support a standard the iPhone lacks in order to be sold there.

There is one more practical reason Apple management may be considering WiMax inclusion in their products: the threatened collapse of the US consumer market as global financial systems fall apart in the face of huge recession. WiMax may be seeing slow deployment in the developed European/US markets, but future opportunity may be found in the developing economies of Russia, China and India, where major WiMax investments are being made now. Whether the low hanging fruit of offering consumer electronics devices that are always connected and use the standard will be sufficient to shift Apple’s long-standing US-centric vision is open to question.

And there is of course one more thing – we’re all pretty excited about that extra port on the MacBook shots we’ve been seeing…is Apple planning WiMax inclusion in future models?


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