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Apple Music, iTunes Movies, and iBooks roll out in China

Apple has just dug deeper into the lucrative Chinese market with the launch on Tuesday of Apple Music, iTunes Movies, and iBooks.

China-based music fans can now try out Apple’s fledgling music streaming service, which besides global stars also includes tracks from local favorites such as Eason Chan, Li Ronghao, JJ Lin, and G.E.M.

A similar blend of international and local content is also available in the movie section, with users able to rent and buy from a sizable selection of titles. Apple said that as “a token of appreciation” its online store is offering customers free access to the recent Chinese hit The Taking of Tiger Mountain “for a limited time.”

Meanwhile, in the new iBooks store readers can find a wide selection of both paid and free content, Apple said in a release announcing the new services.

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Apple, like all global brands, has long recognized the huge potential of the Chinese market, with the nation’s growing middle class and rising income levels presenting major opportunities for the tech giant.

Analysts at investment firm Bernstein said recently that while in 2012 the iPhone was affordable to 30 percent of the population, by 2019 that figure is expected to rise to 60 percent.

If Apple can turn that increase into extra smartphone sales, that’s a whole lot of iPhone users looking to grab content from the company’s vast entertainment ecosystem, helping to push revenue even higher.

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Sales of the iPhone in China were given a boost at the end of 2013 when Apple inked a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier with some 800 million subscribers.

While the Cupertino company faces increasing competition from local firms such as Xiaomi and Huawei, attractive handsets combined with astute marketing aimed at China’s aspiring middle class has so far helped to ensure healthy sales of Apple’s handset.