January 27, 2010

China Will Not Put Restrictions On Android Phones

After a lengthy standoff with Google, China is trying to assure mobile phone companies using Google's Android operating system that they won't be hurt by a dispute over Web censorship, The Associated Press reported.

Google said the technology would be allowed if it complies with regulations.

The Internet company's own smart phone release was postponed in China following its Jan. 12 announcement that it will no longer censor search results.

However, other companies are developing Android-based phones and could be hurt if Beijing tries to penalize Google by barring its use.

Zhu Hongren, a spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said as long as Android fulfills Chinese laws and regulations and has good communication with telecom operators, he think its application should not have restrictions.

China's communist government insists on controlling information but needs foreign companies like Google to help achieve its goal of making China a technology leader.

Ted Dean, managing director of BDA China Ltd., a Beijing research firm, said the operating system is one of a mobile phone's most basic elements and changing it after products already have been launched would be costly.

"There's a pretty significant upfront investment in developing a phone on one operating system. So you don't want to change course on so basic a system as what operating system it works on," Dean said.

However, the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily accused Google on Wednesday of being a tool of Washington's "Internet hegemony."

The newspaper said Washington "is shifting its strategic focus from the military to the Internet" after seeing its strength eroded by the global crisis.

"It is against this backdrop that Google becomes a tool of the country's Internet hegemony," the paper said.

Google is in sensitive talks with the Chinese government in an attempt to keep an important Beijing development center, a lucrative advertising sales team and access to China's booming market for its fledgling mobile phone business.

A Google spokesman, Jessica Powell, declined Wednesday to comment on the status of talks or confirm whether top managers from the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters were in Beijing.

Neither Google nor Zhu have given any indication of the possible fate of Google's own phone, planned with local carrier China Unicom Ltd.

With China having the world's most populous mobile phone market, any restrictions on Google might hamper any efforts to expand into mobile. China has more than 700 million accounts and strong demand for advanced services.

Meanwhile, the state-owned China Mobile Ltd., the world's biggest phone company by subscribers, is developing its own smart phone, the OPhone, which uses a system that has Android as its foundation.

Experts say the involvement of such a major state company -- a key player in Beijing's technology development plans -- could add to pressure on authorities to contain the commercial consequences of the Google disagreement.

Dean said Google allows use of Android for free, which might boost costs for manufacturers and phone carriers if they switch systems.


On the Net: