Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nexus One unlikely to launch in China

Google's Nexus One launched Tuesday to a fanfare of media excitement. It is Google's attempt at swatting away the competition from the iPhone and also marks its first move into producing hardware albeit manufactured by a third party. The Nexus One offers much potential with its ultrafast processor, 5Mb camera and large screen, but so far only US consumers will be able to purchase the $600 device. It is rumoured that the UK will see a launch in the spring with Vodafone tipped as the main network selling it on a subsidy. But it is unlikely to reach Asian shores anytime soon. Despite being made in Taiwan by electronics' firm HTC, there are no plans afoot to release the device there or indeed neighbouring China.

China is mobile mad. Step onto any subway train or bus in any major city and one will see dozens of young Chinese fiddling with their smart-phones. However, most are only playing games or listening to music. The new 3G networks provide good Internet access, but this is not the main reason why Chinese youth buy the latest mobile gadgets. While they may check e-mail and send texts, and of course phone people, while talking so loudly that the entire bus can hear the conversation, phones are more of an entertainment than a communications' device.

The Google phone would more than likely fail for very many reasons. First, like the Apple iPhone, the company would be told by Chinese government regulators to remove the WiFi receiver, thus forcing users onto expensive 3G networks. Secondly, much of what makes the device usable is inherently unusable in China. Google services have been particularly hard-hit by the Great Firewall of China in the last year. YouTube disappeared in March of 2009, closely followed by Blogger. Google Docs, Google Sites, Picasa Web and even the Android application market has suffered outages due to blocks by Chinese censors. Some are completely inaccessible while others are unstable. In addition social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become redundant since June.

These are all integral features of the Nexus One, after all a Google phone's main function would be to access Google services with ease. In China this would prove virtually impossible. The Internet in China is shaky and slow at the best of times, mostly due to filtering which brings everything to a crawl. But the functionality of this smartphone would be lost altogether here with Internet restrictions. It has often been joked about on Twitter that China doesn't have an Internet, it has a LAN [Local Area Network] or Intranet. The situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon and for Google, which are well and truly in the cross-hairs of Chinese censors, it is probably a lost market before any sales-pitch has begun.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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