This September Google-watchers were buoyed by reports that the play Store may be entering China this fall. However according to sources cited by Reuters, the launch of a China-side Play Store has a much looser timeline: 2016.
Google has regulatory hurdles to overcome before they are allowed to pre-install the official version of their app store on any devices, though they have been working on a China-friendly version of their app store for over a year now.
In a highly cited report from The Information this September, sources said that the company could be releasing the store as soon as fall 2015, and that Google had already entered into local partnerships to launch an extensively planned app store. It appears the process has been slower than anticipated.
According to the latest report from Reuters, the new store will be unconnected to overseas stores, and the company intends to comply with state regulations on filtering sensitive content.
Early this month Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said at TechCrunch Beijing that he was traveling to China for government and private meetings. Google is looking to integrate the Chinese Play Store with China’s native payment methods, Alipay and Wechat Payment, meaning those partnerships also need to be forged along with device partnerships.
While the move is significant in terms of re-exposing their brand in China, the state has made no concessions in the latest deal. This mean’s that an entry for Google’s central search business remains an incredibly difficult task for the company.
Google Search was evicted from China in 2010 over censorship concerns in a very public conflict between the state and the company. Some services remained active, though they have been progressively snuffed out behind firewall, including Gmail, which was blocked in late 2014.
This year the company has made a concerted effort to re-enter the market, with several executives speaking out on the mater including Chief executive Sergey Brin, Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Alphabet CEO Larry Page.
Since the restructure that saw Google become a unit of parent company Alphabet, it has been made clear that each unit of the new Alphabet company is free to pursue their own international expansion plans.
Last month Google made their first direct investment in a Chinese startup, contributing an undisclosed amount to Android AI smart-wear company Mobvoi. Google also partnered with their first Chinese smartphone vendor to launch the Huawei Nexus 6 in October, fueling rumors that Huawei may be Google’s initial device partner for the launch of the Play Store.