Google eyes return to China by seeking approval for Chinese-version Play app store: sources

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 September, 2015, 11:23am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 September, 2015, 11:23am

Google is talking with Chinese authorities and smartphone makers about opening an online shop in China stocked with applications for Android-powered mobile devices, reports said on Friday.

The move would mark a return for the US internet firm following a five-year absence.

The Wall Street Journal and tech website The Information reported that the company was hoping to get Chinese government approval for a China version of its Play store mobile app.

The tech giant is also planning to extend support of a version of Android for wearable devices in the country, The Information cited one of the people as saying.

Google has assured Chinese authorities that it will follow local laws and block Play store apps that the government deems objectionable, one person familiar with the plans told the website.

Google moved its online search service from mainland China to Hong Kong in 2010 after a cyberattack targeting Gmail users and a clash over censorship.

Many Google services, such as its free Gmail email, are blocked in China.

Google-backed Android powers the majority of the smartphones in the world and is available free for device makers in China and elsewhere.

Manufacturers such as Xiaomi customise their own version of Android, while Baidu and other Internet players in China run app stores that don’t share revenue with Google, according to the Journal.

Opening a Google Play online shop for digital content approved by the Chinese government and pre-installed on smartphones powered by a licenced version of Android would be a remedy for that situation.

Google has been working on the project for more than a year and hoped to have the China app shop on new smartphones by the end of this year, according to a source cited by the Journal.

The Play store app will only work on devices running the recently unveiled “M” version of Android, and only on devices that comply with China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology requirements, The Information reported.

Google is also planning to offer new incentives to phone makers to upgrade Android phones to the latest versions of its operating system, one person familiar with the plans told the tech website.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.