For those in major markets like the United States, we tend to think of Android as a Google-powered OS that is centered around the search giant’s services like Maps, Google Play and many others. However, a good portion of the world actually runs Android in its AOSP form or a modded version of the experience, completely devoid of Google apps and services.
Back in October we reported on a claim from The Information that Google was looking to slow AOSP Android’s growth in emerging markets by making it easier for smaller players to get their devices Google certified. In a related story released today, it seems Google is also taking aim at China.
Google officials and Chinese government reps have been in informal talks over such matters off and on for years
Right now, Google Play and other Google services aren’t officially supported by the vast majority of Chinese mobile devices, except for a small minority bought from the gray market and other similar sources. Several people with knowledge of Google’s plans have revealed to The Information that Google is hoping to change this by introducing an official Google Play app to the Chinese market.
Considering the Chinese government and Google haven’t always been on the best of terms, it’s unclear whether China would even approve such a release, although it is worth mentioning that Google officials and Chinese government reps have been in informal talks over such matters off and on for years.
What Google has to gain
The most obvious gain is a monetary one. China is a massive market and one that Google has very little direct influence over at this time. By easing their way into China with Google Play, the search giant could reach new consumers and slowly build up more attention to its brand. It could also introduce more Google services in the future, at least if it is able to come to a better understanding with the Chinese government.
China is a massive market and one that Google has very little direct influence over at this time
Beyond the fiscal aspects, we suspect that Google also fears that Chinese app stores and non-Google certified devices help further lend to the impression that Android is a security nightmare. After all, a good majority of Android malware comes from apps found in unofficial marketplaces like those in China. By providing Google Play as an option in China, Google could force its competitors to take malware seriously and do more to filter it out, which in turn could improve Android’s security reputation both in China and abroad.
Is there room for Google Play in China?
The big question is whether there’s even room for Google Play in China. While most of us can’t imagine Android without Google Play, many Chinese consumers have never known differently and, without Google Play, there are already quite a few powerful and established marketplaces readily available.
Of course there are still those in China that are very familiar with the Google brand despite limited exposure. If Google could play on this and promote how much more secure its store is when compared to its local competitors, it could still have a pretty big shot at success.
The Information also notes that Google will likely alter the Google Play experience in order to make it more appealing to Chinese users. This includes things like not requiring Google Play to be tied to a Google account in China, as well as the possibility of Google self-censoring its store to limit politically controversial content.
When is it coming, and who is partnering with Google?
Right now there’s no set date for when Google will release Google Play to China, and it’s still unclear whether such an effort will even fully get off the ground. If it does become a reality, it’ll need both carrier and OEM support if Google expects its store to have any real reach.
To that end, Google is reportedly in talks with carriers such as Huawei and ZTE, which could potentially pre-load its store onto future devices. While Google has yet to get far with carrier talks, they will likely need support here as well, at least if they want to offer features like carrier billing services and the like.
What do you think, will Chinese consumers be receptive to the idea of Google Play, or will established alternatives make the idea much less appealing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.