In news that is not likely to surprise anyone, but is nonetheless significant, Google is reported to be coming up against a government road-block with its plans to launch the Nexus 7 tablet in China.
The company famously redirected its China search service to Hong Kong in 2010 — following espionage and hacking claims — and now industry sources in Taiwan, where the 7-inch tablet is built, have told Digitimes that the government is making it “difficult for the Nexus 7 to enter the China market”, having not approved it for import yet. That’s despite manufacturer ASUS enjoying a strong network and presence in the country, which is the world’s largest and fastest growing smartphone market.
Digitimes points out that the delays and uncertainty are a boost to China’s local tablet makers that are churning out Android Ice Cream Sandwich-powered devices at a price point of around $149. The lowest capacity (8GB) Nexus 7 sells for $199 in the US but, it remains unclear whether that price would differ in China.
Already, the device is available via Chinese e-commerce site Taobao, like countless other goods that are yet to launch in China. E-tailers on the site are offering it for around RMB1500, that’s around $235. However, these sellers are unofficial and not likely to make any kind of dent in the local market.
There’s no suggestion, at this stage, that the tablet won’t see the light of day in China, but it appears that Google will have a tough time making the launch happen. Although it can take solace in the fact that China did finally ratify its $12.5 billion deal to buy Motorola Mobility, albeit with a number of guarantees around the future of Android.
Google recently expanded its retail efforts when it made the Nexus 7 available for sale in France, German and Spain last month. Taiwanese operators have already begun pre-selling the tablet, with a view to shipping orders this month. As such, we’d expect it to launch in other key Asian countries too, but China seems unlikely to be on that list.
Another rumor out of Taiwan suggests that a 3G-version of the WiFi-only tablet will launch to the public within the next 6 weeks. That speculation also makes a lot of sense, and it would see Google build on its early success with a new product to compete with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire devices and a possible Apple iPad mini.
A word on Digitimes: while the site has been criticized for its sources, it is entirely logical that there is a foundation to Google’s Nexus 7 issues in China. Indeed, in January, sources close to the Taiwanese publication reported that the Nexus 7 — ‘a 7-inch tablet to rival the Kindle’ — would be forthcoming.
We reached out to Google but the company declined to comment on the matter.