Google Inc’s new CEO Sundar Pichai has clearly discussed his intentions of getting back into China via Google Play. That said, the journey probably won’t be a smooth and easy one for the world’s biggest search engine.
Local players to make it tough for Google
Google refused to self-censor its search results, after which it had to pull out its services from China five years ago. It’s presence in the biggest Internet market in the world has been limited since then. Most of its services have been “rendered borderline inaccessible” in China, including Play, says a report from Reuters.
“Google needs to be in China, period. Once in China, they can expand into other services. They need a beachhead, and the beachhead is Google Play,” Andy Tian, a Chinese app developer and former Google employee, told Reuters.
Google has lost its lead in most of its major services, especially search and video streaming, to Chinese players including Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba and Qihoo 360, believes Tian. Google’s offerings have been replaced and surpassed by all these local players with the help of products and services that they built on their own.
Chinese market too big to ignore
From the app stores, the point of control in mobile has now shifted to applications like messaging in China and elsewhere in Asia. Messaging services are increasingly acting as gateways for the third parties to provide services. WeChat, the messaging app from Tencent, was similar to WhatsApp originally. But it now allows its 600 million monthly active users to perform various day-to-day tasks with ease, such as playing games, booking cabs and making payments, among several other activities, notes the report.
China is a huge market with a lot of opportunities, and therefore, can’t be ignored by Google. Many, however, doubt the success of Google in China as local rivals are now well established, and Google will need to comply with Chinese laws. Complying with the Chinese laws would require Google to store all its data in China, and meet all requests for information access and censorship. This could become a thorny issue, especially if the U.S. government becomes involved.
Google has yet to confirm its plans for ramping up the Play Store in China. The U.S. firm has declined to comment on the matter, but this only points highlights the comments made by Pichai about exploring ways of bringing Google Play to China.