Google Android Phone Launches Delayed In China

By confronting Chinese authorities on search censorship, Google may be endangering other parts of its business.
Google's challenge of China's censorship policy appears to be affecting its mobile business in the country.

The company confirmed that China Unicom had postponed the planned launch of two Android-powered devices on Wednesday.

A Google spokesperson did not provide information about the specific phone models to be introduced, but the Nexus One, the Google-branded, HTC-designed mobile phone the company introduced in the U.S. earlier this month, is not among them.

A report in the English language version of China's Caing magazine claims that Google withdrew its authorization for China Unicom to use its logo.

Google declined to offer an explanation for the postponement. A spokesperson for China Unicom was not immediately available.

The postponed phones, reportedly from Motorola and Samsung, will not be the first Android devices to hit the Chinese market. The Samsung Galaxy is an Android device and it is currently available in China.

Mobile carriers that choose to offer Android devices can do so without Google, since Android is an open source operating system. Google only gets involved on a partnership level if a carrier, like China Unicom, wants to offer Google apps on its device.

Google also participates in deeper levels of partnership, as it has done with Verizon for the Droid and with T-Mobile for the Google-branded Nexus One.

Google is currently engaged in discussions with Chinese officials about its decision to stop censoring search results in its Chinese search engine, That decision came following revelations that Google and 33 other companies had been targeted in a cyber attack from China.

Google said that one of the goals of the attacks "was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists."

On Monday, the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China posted a warning that some of its members at news bureaus in Beijing have discovered that their Gmail accounts had been hijacked and were forwarding their messages to an unknown party's e-mail address.

While Google has not directly accused the Chinese government of involvement in the attacks, U.S.-based security companies have done so.

Chinese government officials have said that computer attacks are illegal in China and that the Chinese government itself has been targeted by hackers.

Despite efforts to be both polite and firm in its rejection of Chinese government oversight, Google's declaration of independence is likely to prompt other companies operating in China to distance themselves from Google, for fear of reprisal.

Google in turn may choose to help partners save face and potential future scrutiny from Chinese authorities by publicly withdrawing from partnerships, if it cannot reach some accommodation with the Chinese government.