Back in 2010, Google decided to shut down its operations in China instead of bowing to governmental pressure and censoring its search results for users in the country. Now, it might be making its way back with Play store for Android apps.
The Information reports that the search giant has been approached by Beijing-based online services and gaming firm NetEase to form a joint venture and launch Google Play in China.
It’s worth noting that the companies haven’t reached an agreement yet, and that Google has been approached by other local companies in the past.
The difficulty in entering China has a lot to do with securing governmental approval and navigating regulations concerning censorship and storing data locally. Google had reportedly geared up to launch a censored version of Google Play in China back in 2015, but nothing came of the effort; it’s possible that local laws made that a challenge.
If a partnership were to emerge from the talks, Google would certainly have a lot to gain. Its entire range of services are blocked in China, which counts a whopping 479 million Android users across the country.
Even if it’s only allowed to run its Play store there (and not offer search, email or other services), it could stand to grab a chunk of app sales and in-app purchases that are currently earned by local stores, including those operated by tech heavyweights like Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba and Qihoo 360.
For reference, App Annie forecasts that the Asia-Pacific region will account for annual gross revenues of $58 billion by 2020. That’s more than the rest of the world combined.
The move would also signal a 180-degree turn for Google, which previously maintained that it wouldn’t bow to governmental pressure to censor content on its platforms. It’ll be interesting to see if NetEase can land the deal – but don’t hold your breath.