Google may finally bring the Play Store and Android Wear to the world’s most populous country.
A report from The Information says the Internet giant is close to a deal with the Chinese government that would finally give Google more equal footing with Apple in the battle over mobile devices and content.
Why this matters: In the absence of a centralized app storefront, Android is tremendously fragmented in China as phone manufacturers have crafted their own Android variants and application storefronts. That kind of disjointed experience makes an iPhone all the more appealing for Chinese consumers. It’s also bad news for Android developers, who are shut out of a major market for selling their apps.
Bursting through the Great Firewall
To win over Chinese officials, Google is pledging to block apps the government deems objectionable and to follow all local laws. It’s a reversal of when the company left China in 2009 and set up shop in Hong Kong over its belief the government was too restrictive and hacked into its computers.
But six years later, Google needs China more than ever. Android is a critical part of Google’s future, as there are millions of devices running the open source version of the operating system without any access to certain Google service, apps, or the Play Store. That’s a lot of app sales, ad clicks, and paid services that Google is losing out on.
The path will be tough. Along with the popularity of Apple’s devices, Qihoo 360, Tencent Holdings, and Baidu are the key content and application distributors. Also the rollout will be slow, as the article says the Play Store will only launch on devices running Android Marshmallow that have been approved for sale in China.
The other key piece of Google’s re-entry to China is Android Wear. The Huawei Watch looks impressive, and getting it sold in China could be a good boost. The report indicates Google is working on voice-assistant capabilities in Mandarin to give the watches, which now work with the iPhone, more appeal.