For a while it looked like the Google threat to pull out of China was just a load of hot air, and pretty late hot air at that considering it had taken years for the search giant to realise that state censorship is a bad thing. But that has all changed now that Google landed a well aimed kick right to the Chinese commercial nads by 'delaying' the launch of a couple of new Android OS powered mobile devices.
Although there is, as of yet, no official response from China over this latest move it has previously stated that Google should not be above the law and that any company wishing to do business in China has to respect and obey the laws of the land. I doubt that pulling the release of a couple of cellphones in a country awash with cellphones is really going to make China change its mind on this one.
Motorola and Samsung, the companies whose smartphones were ready to go on the country's second biggest mobile network, China Unicom, to the tune of some 30,000 handsets in all, might take a different view given the size of the market. Of course, given that there are some 700 million mobile phone users and growing, this kind of leaves Google between a rock and a hard place.
Does it really want to turn around and flounce out of an important, vital even, market for the long term success of the Android OS and its hardware aspirations in the mobile phone sector? No, of course not. But does it have any choice considering that it will get some seriously sticky egg on face if it does not follow through now that all of this has become such a big media story? China will feel that it is in the exact same position regarding sticky egg, and is also unlikely to sound the retreat over this, and there is no reason to expect it will.
The most likely compromise will be the withdrawal of the Google.cn domain and search services, as threatened by Google already, but the continuation of business as normal when it comes to Android and adwords for that matter. Sure, that will leave a little egg in place for a while but at least Google won't be completely scrambled on the Chinese business front.
I'd like to be proven wrong, and I'd like to see Google truly make a principled stand and bugger off out of China for good, or at least until such a time as basic humans rights become a reality over there. But then again, I'd like to see a little more support from other big business players who seem to all be content in putting the bottom line and the smell of money before any notion of principle or freedom. <cough> Yes, I'm talking to you, Steve Ballmer! </cough> The Microsoft CEO has stated that Microsoft has been "quite clear that we are going to operate in China" and "we're going to abide by the law".
At least Ballmer has made his position, and that of Microsoft crystal clear. I just wish that Google would do the same and stop flouncing about. If you are reading this Google executives, here's my advice:
Either grasp the nettle and do something seriously gutsy to make a stand and get out of China or shut up and sit back down...