Great wall of Chinese barriers for Google’s shift in policy

26 Nov 2014

Language, game style and well-established competition pose significant obstacles to Google’s app plans in China, despite its recent announcement on Google Play.

Masanari Arai, CEO of Kii, a mobile backend provider for mobile applications and Internet of Things devices, feels that the recent move to open up merchant opportunities to China-based android app developers is just the first step for Google in China, with significant obstacles lying in wait.

Google Play is still unavailable in China – it doesn’t come pre-loaded on the phones of the 500m android users in the country – but the ability for developers there to now make and profit from app creations shows a marked shift in the company’s policies.

Arai, however, feels local competition that knows the market well will be hard to overcome.

“It is not as simple as having the platform ready in China,” he told Silicon Republic. “There are many other […] payment methods and other Google components (Google Map, etc.) that are still not available in China.

“Not to mention there is also a lot of competition from existing local app stores such as 360, Wandoujia, Baidu, etc. They have already established great relationships with local developers and have set up the game rules in China.”

Potential in China for Google

Google withdrew its search engine from China at the start of the decade amid a hacking story that eventually saw US officials criticise the Asian state, and allegedly led to closer links between Google and the US National Security Agency

Google clearly sees significant potential in the Chinese marketplace, with the country home to over half of all android users worldwide. Arai claims that most app developers in China are focused on the home market and local App stores and, with manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Huawei already having their own app stores pre-loaded onto phones, Google Play is hardly a guaranteed success, even should it be rolled out fully.

“I don’t think that, in the short run, Google can be successful at scale re-entering China,” says Arai, who is dubious of the benefits of Google’s move, and indeed whether or not a full release is even in the works. 

“This announcement will not make a big impact to the China developer. In the short run, it is hard to state exactly whether or not Google Play will have a full release in China.”

Google Play image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic