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Google delays Android handsets in China

20 января 2010

Google’s stand-off with the Chinese government over hacking has claimed its first casualties outside the US internet company itself, with the delay to the launches of two Android-based mobile handsets in the country.

The launch of the two handsets, developed with Samsung and Motorola for China Unicom, the country’s second-largest mobile operator, had been postponed, Google China said.

The move indicates that the Android-based platform – the open source mobile operating system designed by Google to allow developers to build customised handsets – is likely to suffer from the company’s warning to pull out of China.

Industry analysts said Samsung’s GT-i6500U and Motorola’s XT701 were scheduled to launch for China Unicom on Wednesday. The Samsung handset would have carried Google’s logo and both devices would have run Google applications, industry sources said.

The news came as China’s foreign ministry said Google was not above China’s laws, which leaves scant hope for talks that the US company has said it wants to conduct with Beijing over how its China business operates.

“Foreign firms in China should respect China’s laws and regulations, and respect China’s public customs and traditions, and assume the corresponding social responsibilities, and of course Google is no exception,” said Ma Zhaoxu, foreign ministry spokesman.

Smartphone makers have piled into China, the world’s largest mobile phone market with more than 700m subscribers, in recent months. The launch of third-generation mobile services last year triggered a fight for high-end subscribers between the three main Chinese network operators. The iPhone was officially launched late last year through China Unicom, the second-largest operator. Blackberry also stepped up its engagement in China through alliances with China Mobile and China Telecom, the smallest operator.

Several handset vendors have already launched Android phones there. China Mobile, the country’s leading mobile operator, has also developed the OPhone, a highly customised platform that is in turn built on Android software.

Analysts said Google’s conflict with Beijing was unlikely to have much impact on China Mobile’s OPhone. “The Ophone has replaced G-mail [and] Google search content with [China Mobile Communications Corp’s] applications, so OPhone has no connections with the content related upheaval,” said Flora Wu, handset analyst at BDA, a Beijing-based telecoms consultancy.

However, the Android ecosystem could suffer in the longer term if Google’s departure from China hurts Chinese vendors’ confidence of releasing Android-based phones, she added.

“It was Google who suddenly stopped this in the tracks,” pointed out one person working on the project.

Samsung in Beijing said it was no longer clear whether the launch would take place and redirected requests for comment to China Unicom.

China Unicom did not reply to requests for comment.

Motorola could not immediately be reached for comment.

Источник: Financial Times

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