The Chinese government is unnerved by the success of Android, and wants local firms to become more independent of Google, quelle surprise!
Local mobile superstars – Baidu, Huawei, Alibaba – should prioritize the development of an independent mobile operating system, rather than depend on Google's technology, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology warned in a lengthy whitepaper released on Friday and publicized by local media on Tuesday.
The Android operating system sits on around 86 percent of the smartphone handsets sold in China, according to the report.
The whitepaper urges companies to develop either their own operating system or a strongly independent variant of Android.
This is not easy as Western companies own much of the intellectual property needed to develop a modern mobile OS, the report observes, and Apple, Google and Microsoft have a huge lead in terms of technical sophistication.
But the potential dividends of having a successful, independent mobile platform are so vast that companies must invest resources into developing their own technology, the report urges.
Many of the concerns outlined in the report stem from worries over Android's success letting Google throw its weight around, and paranoia about Android-based technologies being vulnerable to legal attacks in light of the Oracle versus Google trial.
Google has already discriminated against local companies developing their own Android-based operating systems by not sharing code with them in a timely manner, the paper claims, without naming companies.
This wouldn't be the first time Google has thrown its weight around: in September 2012 the launch of an Acer smartphone running on an Acer-Alibaba mob OS named 'Aliyun' was allegedly snuffed by behind-the-scenes pressure from Google. Acer is a major Android licensee.
When The Register asked Google for a statement, the company responded with: "Android is an open source mobile platform freely available to everyone. It is available in its entirety at http://source.android.com, allowing device manufacturers to customize and offer new user experiences, driving innovation and consumer choice."
The job of the state is to be paranoid
So why the big fuss? One of the main roles of government is to be paranoid on behalf of its populace – big brother thinks about nuclear war, pandemics, social housing, healthcare, et cetera, so we don't have to.
By cautioning companies on the pitfalls of depending on technology operated by a foreign company, China is following in the prudent footsteps of many other global powers.
In the same way China is concerned about Google pressuring its companies through the success of Android, the US government is worried about the spread of Huawei networking gear letting China hold US companies' feet over a fire.
If anything, the Chinese government is acting more sensibly than its flag-waving, gun-toting, cyclists-cause-global-warming-claiming rival.
Rather than blocking use of Android – as the US has done with Huawei in some government contracts – the Ministry is instead urging companies to invest more in developing their own variants of the tech or entirely new mob OS's.
This lets them make more money in the long run, and reduces their dependence on Google – something the Chinese government is understandably keen on, as it tends to disagree with the Chocolate Factory about everything.
If Android were entirely separate to Google, El Reg think it's unlikely that this report would have been issued.
But as long as the little green robot is intimately connected with a company whose entire business model is based on digitizing as much information as possible and making this available to as many people as have internet-capable devices, it's unlikely that a repressive command-and-control state is likely to have much fondness for the platform. ®
This type of posturing happens when a country is, as they say, on the make: see the US prioritizing the development of its own domestic oil production over imports; long-running attempts by China to develop credible MIPS-based processors so the country isn't dependent on Intel and ARM; the Soviet space and computer programs; India growing car makers like Tata; or Japan realizing after four terrifically advanced US warships steamed into the bay of Edo in the mid-19th century that if it didn't develop some good tech capabilities quickly it could become an annex of the West.