New name? New logo? New country? Five years ago, Google lost access to what is now the world's largest mobile market. Now the search engine giant may be making a comeback to China, The Information reports.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has reportedly been in conversations to open the Google Play Store -- where the company houses all of its mobile apps -- and sell its Android Wear software for wearables in mainland China.
The Mountain View, California-based company has been working to secure partnerships with businesses in China and plans to seek approval from the Chinese government as early as the fall, The Information has learned through people with knowledge of the discussions. Google has already partnered with ChinaPay to provide payments in the app store, The Information reports.
The China version of the Google Play store will reportedly be under different constraints than its U.S. counterpart. “For its app store, Google has promised authorities that it will follow local laws and block apps that the government deems objectionable, say the people familiar with Google’s plans,” The Information reports.
Currently, Google’s products do not have much reach in China, as the services are not officially available. Reportedly under the government’s censorship -- what is referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”-- all of Google’s services are barred or slowed. That firewall blocks the Google Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps and the main site. But the plan to re-enter China does not include plans to bring back its big United States services like search, ad and video hosting site YouTube -- at least not yet.
Some devices available in China, such as those from Huawei Technologies and Samsung Electronics, officially use Google’s software already. The company reportedly hopes to further those relationships and expand its marketing reach. The Google Play Store could include advertising.
Google’s exit from China was heated. As The Information notes, the re-entry “marks a new chapter in Google’s relationship with China after it publicly feuded with the government in 2010, which some Googlers say was a big mistake.” The 2010 controversy in part involved a cyberattack on the Chinese-language version of its search engine site, which Google itself described as “highly sophisticated” and which some have suggested was executed by the Chinese government, BBC reported at the time.
China’s been an attractive market for other giant corporations. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in October 2014 that he expected China to “become Apple’s biggest revenue contributor.” Even Facebook, which is also blocked in China, has been working to befriend the country, The Washington Post reports. The social network competes with services native to China, like Weibo and WeChat.
For Google, there’s a handful of other players beyond its American-based competitors Apple and Facebook. Search engine Baidu and mobile services company Tencent Holdings dominate in China.