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China Unicom ditches Google on mobiles

25 марта 2010

China’s second-largest mobile operator has announced it will remove Google’s search function from new handsets developed with the US company in the first concrete fallout of the clash with Beijing over internet censorship.

China Unicom said the Google search function would not be provided on phones using the US company’s Android-based operating system. Unicom said the handsets’ manufacturers would choose which search engines to use instead.

“We are willing to work with any company that abides by Chinese law...we don’t have any co-operation with Google currently,” said Lu Yimin, Unicom’s president.

The Chinese government has struggled in recent days to respond to Google’s decision to redirect Chinese users of its search function to its uncensored Hong Kong site.

Internet users using Google have experienced widely divergent search results in different parts of the country and different times of the day, in part a reflection of splits in the Chinese government over how to react to the US group’s move.

But Unicom’s statement is confirmation that Google’s stance against censorship in China could carry a substantial commercial cost, through its exclusion from the fast-growing mobile internet market in the country.

According to official Chinese figures, the country has 384m internet users, but 745m mobile subscribers, many of them regular users of the internet on their handsets. Last year, China Unicom and its two competitors started third-generation mobile businesses and have signed up millions on customers to the higher-end services.

In January, after announcing its intention to stop censoring its search engine in China, Google delayed the launches of two Android-based mobile handsets that Samsung and Motorola had developed for Unicom.

Unicom’s website has since started taking pre-orders for the Motorola device.

Analysts said China Unicom was likely to take a blow from its decision. “Their distribution of the iPhone is not going very well, and therefore Android was an important part of their strategy,” said Charice Wang, an analyst at Ovum, the telecoms research company.

China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, offers more than a dozen smartphones running on its own platform which is based on Android and which feature Google as one search engine among others. So far, the company has not said whether it will drop Google.

Источник: Financial Times

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