Google optimistic about Android in China

Despite Google's problems with the Chinese government, the company's CFO expects Android smartphones to "flourish" in China.

Google may not see eye to eye with the Chinese government these days, but the company still has high hopes for its Android smartphones among Chinese users.

The search giant's chief financial officer, Patrick Pichette, spoke during a Webcast about the prospects for Android in China in the midst of heated negotiations about the future of Google.cn. According to published reports, Pichette said that as an open-source platform, Android is available to everybody and that "China is obviously another great market in which Android should flourish, so we look forward to that."

Google had been ready to unveil Android to China in January but put the brakes on the launch in light of the company's troubles with the Chinese government. Google has pinpointed China as the source of last year's cyberattacks targeted against it and other technology firms. Those attacks were directed at the Gmail accounts of several human rights activists in China and other countries.

But Google's current skirmish with China has been over the Google.cn Web site. In January, Google publicly announced that it would stop censoring results from its Chinese search engine, a violation of Chinese law and a threat that has prompted the Chinese government to issue some strong warnings.

Last week, Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong told Google that it must obey China's rules and regulations or face the consequences. Joining the chorus on Tuesday was China's commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian, who cautioned Google that it must respect and abide by Chinese law.

Following talks between Google and Chinese officials, the fate of Google.cn is still unknown, at least publicly. But on Friday the Financial Times cited a person familiar with the situation who said that at this point Google is 99.9 percent certain to shut down its Chinese search engine rather than continue to censor it.

Though Google has yet to confirm its intention one way or the other, the company's deputy general counsel, Nicole Wong, told the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee last week that it's no longer willing to censor its search results in China. Even if the company shuts down its Chinese search engine, it shouldn't necessarily affect its other business interests in the country. A story in last week's Wall Street Journal (subscription required), cited one source who said that Google could work with different agencies in China to run each business separately.

 

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