China Wrestles Android for Smartphone Control

by Matt Klassen on March 8, 2013

Android controls too much of China’s mobile industry, a white paper report from the research arm of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) stated this week, adding that Google’s power in the Chinese market has allowed it to discriminate against local Chinese firms, crippling the country’s ability to produce its own successful mobile devices.

This is certainly not the first conflict the Chinese government has had with the search engine giant, as back in 2010 the communist regime took issue with Google’s search dominance, crippling the company’s ability to operate in the country, followed by claims from Google in 2011 that Gmail hacking was originating from behind the Great Firewall.

While no specific recommendations for action against Google or its Android operating system were given in this latest row between the two parties, it is seen by many as foreshadowing impending action against Android, meaning that restrictions against Google’s OS loom darkly on the horizon.

“Our country’s mobile operating system research and development is too dependent on Android,” the paper, posted online on Friday but carried by local media on Tuesday, said. “While the Android system is open source, the core technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google.” (PDF)

While the purpose of the white paper was to expose Google’s growing control of China’s smartphone industry, the underlying moral of the story is that the country’s MIIT is confident China can go it alone, having the resources and wherewithal to create its own mobile OS and loosen Android’s grip on its industry.

Such backlash against capitalist companies is really nothing new forChina, particularly when foreign American brands threaten domestic communist controlled business. “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.

As mentioned, the white paper went on to accuse Google of using its market dominance—Android devices account for 90 percent of the Chinese smartphone market—to gain unfair advantage over home-grown competition, stating that the company has discriminated against local firms by withholding codes and by using its various commercial partnerships to stifle development of mobile devices.

The great irony in all this, however, is that Android’s success has laid the foundation for the growth of the entire Chinese smartphone market, Clark explains, as previously domestic companies had struggled to gain traction in China’s smartphone market due to weaknesses in software and operating systems. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to credit Android for creating the smartphone market China has today, the one its fighting to get Android out of.

Again, while no specific recommendations or restrictions were offered in the official white paper release, many analysts posit that this is simply the first step in increasing regulations against Google and its Android OS, regulations the regime likely hopes will curb Android’s dominance, much like restrictions against Google’s search engine were able to cut the company’s search market share in half back in 2010.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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