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This article was published on January 19, 2010

How Google’s Exit From China Could Affect Android

How Google’s Exit From China Could Affect Android
Kevin Korpi
Story by

Kevin Korpi

Based in Saitama, Japan but often found attending tech events in Tokyo. Enjoys playing video games on Wii and Nintendo DS; occasionally tink Based in Saitama, Japan but often found attending tech events in Tokyo. Enjoys playing video games on Wii and Nintendo DS; occasionally tinkering with GNU/Linux and Mac OSX; and actively following blogs and tech sites about the latest tech and web trends. Follow him on twitter and FriendFeed.

Chinese wallGoogle is not the leading search company in China, and it’s revenue from China is minor compared to its business elsewhere. Thus the affects on China’s search industry, and Google’s revenue stream are predictable. So this post takes a look at some unknowns, what might happen to Android in China if Google were to officially leave the Chinese market.

“Google’s China search share at 31 % and analysts say Google banks about $300 – $600 million from search advertising in China or between 1 to 2 % of the company’s total revenues.” [Source: eWeek]

Would Google pulling out of China prevent Chinese manufactures from using Android on their devices?

No. Android is Open Source, that essentially means any company, even companies in China, can use Android.

Google would not develop software on Android for Chinese Android mobiles though, including network software such as China’s WiFI protocol called WAPI. These Chinese specific software drivers and applications would need to be developed by Chinese developers and added to the Android mobiles.

But just when you think you’ll see Android mobiles being made by Chinese manufacturers, it also depends on how smoothly Google ends their business in the country.

The Chinese government could prevent sales of Android mobiles in Mainland China by not approving the sales of them. Every mobile sold from a mobile carrier in Mainland China goes through an approval process in accordance with the Chinese government’s rules.

What about Google’s apps and services?

Google Maps, Gmail, Gtalk, the Marketplace, and other Google provided Apps are not Open Source, and the likely situation is they would not be available on Chinese variants.

Without Google’s services, what does Android provide for manufacturers that want to put Android on their device?

A stable platform, with a better than average UI, decent web browser, and photo/video browser. Are these compelling enough to attract a manufacturer, let alone a customer to buy a mobile without Google’s apps? (Leave your thoughts in the comments.)

What if an Android mobile with Google Maps were brought into China by a tourist or via the grey market?

When Google exits from China they would likely stop updating their local mapping data as well and thus the maps would become outdated.

One of the regions where Google’s Nexus One is currently sold is Hong Kong, that while is not part of mainland China, as of 1997 falls under Chinese government jurisdiction. What happens to Nexus One sales?

This is a tricky one, Hong Kong is under different laws than mainland China what might happen to the Nexus One and other Android mobiles sold in Hong Kong depends on how smoothly or bumpy Google’s exit from China goes. In other words, if things go badly sales of Nexus One in Hong Kong could immediately stop.

Of course, these are hypothetical answers based on what we know so far you’re welcome to disagree or share your thoughts in the comments. =)

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