Google goes to China mar­ket, again

Five years af­ter abruptly leav­ing, world’s largest search en­gine re­turns to the largest mar­ket

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By GAO YUAN in Bei­jing gaoyuan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Google Inc is in search of China busi­ness again, five years af­ter its abrupt de­par­ture from the lu­cra­tive mar­ket.

The world’s largest In­ter­net search provider is aim­ing to bring its online mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion store Google Play to the Chi­nese main­land as soon as this month, mul­ti­ple sources said.

If it suc­ceeds, it will mark a re­turn of sorts for Google to the main­land mar­ket af­ter 2010.

The com­pany, which owns the world’s most-used smart­phone op­er­at­ing sys­tem An­droid, is work­ing on a “spe­cial” ver­sion of Google Play in the coun­try, and the app down­load­ing plat­form will be avail­able for An­droid de­vices for sale in China, ac­cord­ing to tech­nol­ogy news site the in­for­ma­tion. com.

A Bei­jing-based app devel­oper on Mon­day con­firmed the story with China Daily, say­ing the US com­pany has been pre­par­ing a China launch for a while.

“It will be a tai­lored ver­sion, mean­ing the con­tent of the apps will be sub­ject to Chi­nese reg­u­la­tions and video prod­ucts, such as movies, will not be avail­able,” said the per­son, who asked not to dis­close his name be­cause the de­tails are yet to be made public.

Another source, who also asked for anonymity, said Google is also likely to bring along a num­ber of lo­cal com­pa­nies to pro­vide lo­cal­iza­tion ser­vices while launch­ing the app store.

Google re­fused to com­ment, when con­tacted for the story.

Ear­lier this year, Sun­dar Pichai, prod­uct chief at Google and the com­pany’s next CEO, told Forbes mag­a­zine that China is im­por­tant for the com­pany and it will be “a priv­i­lege” to serve Chi­nese users.

In­dustr y data show Google has al­ready missed out the highs of the coun­try’s smart­phone mar­ket. Smart­phone ship­ments in China ended a six- year growth streak in the first quar­ter, re­search firm In­ter­na­tional Data Corp said.

China’s smart­phone sales are reach­ing a peak, as ship­ment growth is be­ing pow­ered by ex­ist­ing users buy­ing new de­vices, rather than first-time buy­ers, the IDC said.

In the ab­sence of Google Play, home­grown app stores dom­i­nated the mar­ket, with 11 stores tak­ing a dou­bledigit mar­ket share as of May, ac­cord­ing to the Big Data Re­search Cen­ter at the Chengdu-based Univer­sity of Elec­tronic Science and Tech­nol­ogy of China.

Baidu Inc, Qi­hoo 360 Tech­nol­ogy Co and Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd have all set up An­droid app stores tar­get­ing main­land users, with Xiaomi Corp, Len­ovo Group Ltd and other hard­ware ven­dors fol­low­ing suit. The 360 store, the largest on the mar­ket, han­dles more than 160 mil­lion app down­loads each day, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

But China’s de­mand for mo­bile apps is set to grow.

With China set to ac­count for a huge chunk of app down­loads and pur­chase pay­ment in the near fu­ture, Google needs to in­clude it in its own app store.

Although a good num­ber of Google prod­ucts, in­clud­ing its search en­gine and map ser­vices, are un­avail­able on the Chi­nese main­land, the 17-year-old com­pany had never moved out of China com­pletely. It has been pro­mot­ing its online advertising busi­ness to Chi­nese com­pa­nies which are look­ing to ex­pand over­seas.

Google rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­clud­ing Chair­man Eric Sch­midt and lower- level em­ploy­ees such as the head of Google Doo­dle team, have vis­ited China even in its low­est mo­ment, vis­it­ing smart­phone re­tail mar­ket­places and mak­ing public speeches on graphic de­sign and com­pany cul­ture.

It will be a tai­lored ver­sion... the con­tent of the apps will be sub­ject to Chi­nese reg­u­la­tions.”

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