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Thursday, January 27, 2011, 09:30 pm PT (12:30 am ET)

Briefly: Foxconn retail, Samsung struggles, Microsoft ponders Office for App Stores

Cybermart, a retail subsidiary of Apple partner Foxconn, is planning an aggressive expansion in Greater China after winning distribution rights for Apple products, according to a new report. Samsung was unable to capitalize on its iPad and iPhone challengers, posting its lowest quarterly profit in six quarters. Finally, a Microsoft spokesperson said the company was "looking into" a Mac App Store version of its Office productivity suite.

Cybermart

Cybermart International, a member of the Foxconn Group, recently obtained status as a "first-grade distributor" for Apple in the Greater China area, Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes reported Friday.

The retail chain, which currently has 34 outlets around China, is planning a massive expansion of up to 500 Apple licensed retail shops, which will reportedly offer on-site repair services, in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said chairman Steve Chang. The first such store will open in Tianjin on April 1, 2011, with 7-8 more new stores to follow in 2011.

Foxconn, one of Apple's largest manufacturers, recently came under criticism after a series of worker suicides.

According to Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, China has been Apple's "top priority" for several years. "We put enormous energy into China. And the results of that have been absolutely staggering." The iPhone maker revealed last week that revenue from China had quadrupled year over year. Apple's four retail stores in mainland China were the highest traffic and highest revenue locations for the company.

Samsung

With modest smartphone and tablet sales unable to cover weak sales of chips and flatscreens, South Korean electronics giant Samsung missed analysts' expectations when it reported the weakest quarterly profit in six quarters on Friday.

Samsung reported 3.0 trillion won ($2.7 billion) in operating profit for the December quarter, well below consensus expectations of 3.4 trillion won. Nearly half of the company's profit came from Samsung's telecom division, Reuters reports.

With 10 million Google Android-based Galaxy S smartphones sold since June and sales of 2 million Galaxy tablets last quarter, Samsung has seen a measure of success in the mobile space, but has been unable to translate units sold into the record profits that Apple has racked up in recent quarters.

With the recently announced Galaxy Player, Samsung is attempting to match Apple's three flagship iOS products: the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, with competing Android versions. The 7-inch Galaxy Tab, though billed as the iPad's first "real" competitor, has been characterized as "a little bit of a disappointment."

Microsoft Office

Microsoft is considering bringing its Office suite to the Mac App Store, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal's Ina Fried.

“It’s something we are looking at,” said Microsoft’s Amanda Lefebvre. “It’s something we haven’t ruled out,” she said. “We just have to see how that relates to our business.”

According to the report, Microsoft may also be planning to bring Office to the iPhone, as the company recently released its OneNote note-taking program on the iOS App Store. “You can absolutely expect Office to expand its presence across other platforms,” said Microsoft senior director Jason Bunge in a recent interview.

When Apple launched the Mac App Store early this month, software giants Microsoft and Adobe were conspicuously missing from the digital storefront. With almost no competition from other major software vendors, Apple's own applications have consistently been the highest grossing on the Mac App Store, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue for the Mac maker.

Microsoft, however, has begun offering a free 30 day trial of Office for Mac on its website, something that can't be done through the Mac App Store.

The Windows maker announced mixed quarterly results Thursday, as sales of PCs have slowed and Windows Phone 7 has failed to take off.