- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

BEIJING | Google on Tuesday postponed the launch of its mobile phone in China, adding to the potential commercial fallout of its dispute with Beijing over Internet censorship and e-mail hacking.

One person briefed on Google’s decision said it was linked to the company’s threat that it will shut its Chinese-based search engine if restrictions aren’t eased.

The company concluded it would “not be a good experience” for consumers to receive a phone right now with its applications, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Marsha Wang, a spokeswoman for Google Inc., however, only said the planned Wednesday ceremony with local carrier China Unicom Ltd. was postponed. She declined to give a reason or say when the launch might be rescheduled.

China has the world’s most-populous mobile phone market, with more than 700 million accounts and increasingly prosperous customers who readily pay for the latest technology and services.

Beijing referred to Google by name Tuesday for the first time since its Jan. 12 announcement that it would no longer censor search results in China and might shut down Google.cn. The government said the search giant must obey China’s laws and traditions, suggesting it was giving no ground in talks with the company.

“Foreign enterprises in China need to adhere to China’s laws and regulations, respect the interests of the general public and cultural traditions and shoulder corresponding responsibilities. Google is no exception,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu at a regular news briefing.

Beijing promotes Internet use for business and education but blocks access to material deemed subversive or pornographic, including Web sites abroad run by dissidents and human rights groups.

China also has the world’s most-populous Internet market, with more than 384 million people online, which is bigger than the entire U.S. population. Google.cn, set up in 2005, trails local rival Baidu Inc., with a 35 percent market share compared with Baidu’s 60 percent.

Google declined to comment on a report by the Chinese business magazine Caixin that the company has told manufacturers Motorola and Samsung to remove its logo, search engine and maps from phones being produced for the China Unicom venture.

Google said last week that an attack in December from China targeted the Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s infrastructure and at least 20 other major companies from the Internet, financial services, technology, media and chemical industries.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China sent an e-mail Monday to its members warning that reporters in at least two news bureaus in Beijing had said their Gmail accounts had been broken into, with their e-mails surreptitiously forwarded to unfamiliar accounts. One of the accounts belonged to an Associated Press journalist.

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