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People’s Republic of China officials are voicing concerns about Android’s use in China and Google’s tense relationship with Chinese web companies.
In a white paper on the mobile web published last month, China’s Academy of Telecommunication Research (the research branch of the PRC’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) states that while the mobile web is still a relatively young technology, “The pace of development of the mobile Internet is beyond imagination.”
However, the paper comes down hard on China’s “severe dependency” on Android, saying that while the OS enjoys an open-source provenance (and the surrounding IP issues that entails), its roadmap is ultimately controlled by Google. And given Google’s history of political issues in China, the company isn’t winning any popularity contests in the PRC government.
The solution? Build a mobile OS for China, by China.
Of course, there are a few speedbumps here, none of which were lost on the MIIT.
“To own operating system development is more difficult,” the paper reads. “Google and Apple have an obvious advantage; they formed a huge ecosystem after entering the application and hardware markets.
“The state will face enormous obstacles. Intellectual property is controlled by others. Currently, major smartphone core technology and patents are still controlled by European and American firms; China did not form an effective patent system.”
Still, we know that China can produce the smartphone hardware. With all the open-source work on mobile OSes now available, it’s not unthinkable that the country could start producing its own mobile operating system or systems, as well — along with its own application marketplaces and content discovery and delivery systems.
As the West seeks inroads to what it sees as a massive market willing to pay for mobile content, we also have to tread carefully around political issues and deep mistrust between two wildly different cultural and technological paradigms.