Internet giant Google has postponed the launch of two Android-powered phones on China Unicom owing to the ongoing dispute the company has with the Chinese government over Internet censorship and online attacks on Google and dozens of other major companies. The delay launching the phones might be the first concrete casualty in Google’s controversial dispute with China; Google apparently felt that launching the phones in the current climate would not be a good experience for consumers, according to reports citing a person briefed on Google’s decision.
Google has said it wants to stop censoring search results presented by the Chinese version of its Internet search service, Google.cn, and wants to work with the Chinese government on ways to legally present uncensored search results. China, for its part, hasn’t moved an inch, saying that companies operating in China must obey Chinese laws and regulations, and Google is no exception. Chinese authorities support use of the Internet for education and commercial purposes, but operates the world’s largest online censorship operation to block access to material it deems subversive, dangerous, or inappropriate, including things like adult materials but also politically sensitive content, such as information about democracy, the Falun Gong movement, or sites run by human rights activists or dissidents.
Google’s postponement of the launches of Android phones from Motorola and Samsung doesn’t mean Android isn’t already in China: Dell’s Mini 3 smartphone is on sale in China and uses Android; China Mobile also offers an Android-based OPhone.
If Google continues postponing or improving services offered in China, the company could be creating a significant window of opportunity for other Internet companies to erode Google’s market share in China—and some of those companies are likely to be American concerns like Yahoo and Microsoft, which so far have shown no willingness to stand alongside Google in protesting China’s Internet censorship. However, it is important to note that China is not without its own Internet giants; for instance, Baidu, not Google, is the dominant search engine in the country. And China is now by far the largest Internet market in the world, with some 384 million Internet users.