Android’s China Problem – Schmidt Struggles To Keep Apps In His Market

As our recent coverage of China’s proliferating app store segment has shown, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is not in full control of its own operating system in the Far East.

And that fact was laid before Android’s biggest exponent, Eric Schmidt, on Wednesday…

Conference delegate Anina – a model, fashionista and tech personality – told Schmidt during Q&A at the Le Web conference that having to submit her apps to umpteen different app stores makes her life hard.

We’re still developing our plan,” Schmidt replied from the stage to the crowd. “Because of the China (political) situation, anything we do with China is more complicated than with anywhere else.

I counted more than 70 (app) stores of one kind or another, and I was just in Beijing.

My advice would just be to figure out the three or four largest, tied to the mobile carriers – they get government spending and have volume.

“It’s a real problem and we’re working on that.”

So Schmidt really advised an Android developer to use app stores other than his own Android Market for distribution. And that is the reality in China – Chinese companies have taken Google’s Android ball and ran farther with it than those in the west, where Android is still closely tied to Google…

  • Platforms: Many of the leading telco and internet brands there have been forking Android in to their own, radically different native versions of the OS, like Tencent’s iQQ, that don’t require users have Google accounts.
  • Stores: On top of that, the app market economy is highly liberalised. If you thought Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Appstore was a threat to Android Market, consider the dozens of alternatives that already dominate Android Market in China.

Although Research2Guidance recently used its data to suggest Chinese download very few Android apps, quite the opposite is true…

China is actually seeing astronomical hyper-growth in apps, and the number of Chinese registered with a mobile app store grew from 100 million to 150 million this Q3 alone, according to government figures. Research2Guidance was only looking at Chinese downloads from Google’s official Android Market, which is little used in China compared with its rivals.

This is what open-source has wrought. And Google will be challenged to put these demons back in Android’s box.