Mobvoi, Google’s first direct investment in the Chinese market since they were blocked in 2010, has launched an Android Wear app store which will serve as a proxy for Google smartwatch apps in China.
Mobvoi launched the store at a developer conference on Monday. Mobvoi co-founder and chief executive Li Zhifei said the store will be pre-installed on all platforms for Android wearables and will feature alongside other partners on the official Android website.
Google’s Play store is currently still blocked in China, though the company is set to launch a version modified for the Chinese market in 2016, according to reports.
Founded by former Google employees in 2012, Beijing-based Mobvoi developed mandarin speech recognition search tool, Chumen Wenwen, as well as their own smartwatch OS, originally designed to replace blocked Google services. The company has also partnered with Lenovo on their Moto 360 smartwatches in China.
“They are a smart user-focused team that exemplify everything that exciting about the ecosystem here,” said David Singleton, VP of Google Android Wear at the event on Monday. “I am also overwhelmed by the pace of innovation in China,” he said, echoing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick who said China could soon surpass the U.S. in innovation at an event in Beijing this month.
Mobvoi also announced that differences between Android Wear and Android Wear China SDKs will be eliminated, paving the way for foreign apps to enter China. “Today, Google is going to announce that the Android Wear China SDK will be the same as the global one,” said Mr. Li. “The second step will be introducing the overseas apps into China. Synchronizing the SDKs solved part of the problem and we will do some promotion to encourage the ecosystem.”
Google led Mobvoi’s latest round of funding in October 2015, raising an amount in the tens of millions. The company’s total funding amount to date is $75 million.
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