China Claims Android Has Too Much Control In Its Smartphone Industry
March 5, 2013

China Claims Android Has Too Much Control In Its Smartphone Industry

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

Google and China have long had a tumultuous relationship. Last fall, Google and all of its major services were blocked in China during the Communist Party´s appointment of new leaders. Google fired back that this was akin to censorship.

Google had also accused the country of hacking its systems in an effort to spy on human rights activists who used the search engine, and also claimed China had looked to steal Google´s intellectual property. Google even threatened to leave the China market, but eventually reached a deal to remain in China.

Now the leaders in the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) have made accusations against Google, via its Android mobile operating system (OS), of having too much control over China´s smartphone industry. The technology ministry released a new white paper last Friday on the subject.

The Ministry's research arm, The China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR), noted in the paper, “Our country´s mobile operating system research and development is too dependent on Android. While the Android system is open source, the core technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google.”

The paper further noted developing an operating system is challenging because Google and Apple´s iOS currently dominate the market. Last month, IDC reported the OS giants combined make up 91 percent of the market, with Google controlling 70.1 percent of the world smartphone OS market.

The importance of China to Google´s success also cannot be understated. Last December, IDC reported China is now the world´s largest Android market. And according to market research group Informa, China also accounts for about one-third of all Android devices sold worldwide.

By comparison, Apple´s iOS has just five percent of the share of the China smartphone market, and Microsoft´s Windows Phone has barely one percent.

What this means for Google is unclear. Neither the report nor comments from the ministry have suggested there would be any regulations made against Google. But given the rocky relationship between the world´s largest market for Android and the company that makes it, anything is possible.

What is possible is China´s mobile phone makers could be looking to alternative operating systems.

At last month´s Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Chinese-based Huawei Technologies and ZTE both announced support for Mozilla´s open-source based Firefox OS for mobile. The new Firefox OS is aimed to provide affordable smartphones for Internet users in emerging markets.

However, past home-grown efforts to develop a simple handset have failed in China.

It is also possible the white paper, which praised efforts by Chinese makers such as Huawei, Baidu and Alibaba Group for efforts to create their own operating systems, could be a sign China might be willing to try again and this could mean that the country might take actions against Google. This could also include regulations against the Android OS as a way to spur domestic research into a new mobile OS platform.

“In China, regulators regulate regularly especially where they can position the regulations as helping out domestic companies,” Duncan Clark, chairman of technology consultancy BDA, said in an email to Reuters. “Ironically, Android's success has underpinned a lot of the growth in China smartphone vendors in recent years.”