Google wooing Chinese developers in push to re-enter China

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US technology giant Google is ingratiating itself with the Chinese developers in a way that could be used to seek an opportunity to return to China, a market it left six years ago after defying the country's self-censorship rules.

Earlier this month, Google held its developer's conference in Beijing, which is the first event especially designed for Chinese developers since 2010 when the Mountain View-based company closed most of its operations in China after a tussle with the Chinese censors over search result screening and a cyber attack on Gmail users.

Industry insiders said that the selection of Beijing as the location for the developer's conference laid bare Google's intention of further connecting its Android-based platforms and open-source technologies and tools with the Chinese developers engaged in creating mobile apps and services.

At the high-profile event which included several seminars where Google and the attendees shared the open-source technologies and an experiencing zone where Google's mobile devices were on display, Scott Beaumont, president of Google Greater China, pledged to "better serve the Chinese developers" no matter what they need, which could be seen as a sign that Google wants to get more ingrained in China's vigorous Android-based ecosystem, where it could potentially make profit by helping developers create new Android-based apps and services.

Google also paved the way for boosting its presence in China by launching a locally-focused developers' website to keep the Chinese developers better informed by providing its technologies and services as well as the latest technical information regarding the Android and Firebase platforms.

The Chinese developer-focused event comes as the rumors about the re-entry of Google Play, the officially authenticated Android app store, into China have circulated for roughly two years, during which the management of Google and its parent company Alphabet has reiterated the hope of bringing back some of Google's services to China.

A Chinese version of Google Play was considered to be on top of the list of Google's services to be first accessible in China as it would be less politically sensitive than Google's search engine to the Chinese government, which has long asked search companies doing business in the country to censor content before releasing them.

Unfortunately, Google has not gained its coveted permission to open the official app store in China. And worse still, Beaumont did not give a specific timetable for the China return of Google's search business at the event in Beijing.

Anyway, currying favor with the Chinese developers marks a major step Google has taken to crack the code in China's lucrative mobile advertising business, as the country has become the world's largest smartphone market.

According to the 2016 China's Online Advertising Report released by iResearch earlier this year, China's mobile advertising revenue stood at 90.1 billion yuan ($13.1 billion) in 2015, and the figure is expected to surpass 326.7 billion yuan ($47.5 billion) by 2018.

The trend coincided with the third-quarter fiscal report published by Google's parent company Alphabet in October, which indicated that about 90 percent of Alphabet's revenue came from advertising business. The revenue structure led some analysts to estimate that nearly half of Alphabet's revenue was contributed by advertisements on mobile devices.

Google pre-installs its services on mobile phones powered by its Android mobile operating system, which backs nearly 87 percent of the world's smartphones, according to IDC.

However, the position of Google in the world's online advertising market is challenged by its American archrival Facebook, whose founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tried tooth and nail to apple-polish China's leadership and its people in recent years. Therefore, a foray into China seems more vital to Google's competition with Facebook in the mobile Internet era.

It is beyond doubt that Google's ultimate goal is to bring back its money-making search engine to China, which will depend on how much it would bend to the Chinese government which has increasingly grown hard-handed on insubordinate foreign technology companies since Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

Previously, media reports said that Facebook was quietly developing a special tool to stop sensitive posts from appearing in people's news feeds, which was regarded as a big concession Facebook made to the controversial censorship demands of the Chinese government, citing current and former Facebook employees. Such a move was impossible for Google six years ago when it announced to safeguard the freedom of online information flow. But now, Google appears to have softened its long-held stand much more for the sake of money.


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