Apple should open retail outlets in China to grab emerging opportunities in the burgeoning Chinese market, a critic claims.

Business Week's Alex Salkever speculates that the company is "in danger of blowing an opportunity to score big with millions of tech- and status-symbol-crazy Chinese."

That market is ripe for iPods, he says, revealing that China's electric shaver market alone is worth in excess of $300 million. "If tens of thousands of Chinese are willing to drop $250-$500 for luxury shavers from Philips, Braun and Panasonic, then you can bet an equivalent or greater number would want to buy iPods."

Apple has announced a deal with Chinese PC maker Founder to preload iTunes on every PC made by the territory's second-largest manufacturer, and HP is also focusing efforts in the region with its soon-to-ship blue HP iPod.

Salkever believes Apple should invigorate its focus in the region, citing figures that show China to have 35-40 million households with a similar amount of spending power as US middle class homes. "That means now 100 million Chinese are living the middle-class life," he said.

The Chinese market is ripe for consumer electronics, he suggests. Mobile phone replacement in the area is 6-12 months ahead of the rest of the world." Middle-class Chinese love status symbols.

He asks: "How about an Apple flagship store in Beijing or Shanghai to whip-up interest in the iPod line and other digital-lifestyle accessories?"

"Apple ignores China and its booming markets at its own peril," he concludes.