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Microsoft plants Bing on Google-free Chinese Androids

Google apps 'postponed' on China carriers

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Motorola will soon push Microsoft's Bing search engine onto Android phones in China, after announcing an alliance with the Redmond software giant that will see Bing appear on Androids across the globe.

In the wake of this Moto-Microsoft pact, Google has confirmed with The Reg that it has barred the use of its mobile applications on Android phones from Chinese carriers, leaving the likes of Motorola to use alternatives.

On Thursday morning, Motorola said that before the end of the quarter it would add a Bing browser bookmark and a Bing search widget to new phones based on Google's open source OS as well as handsets already in the market. Motorola did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it appears that Bing will not be the default provider on the devices' browser search box.

The pact will also put Microsoft's Bing Maps service on Motorola phones.

Motorola's announcement comes amid ongoing confusion over Google's position in China - and thus Motorola's relationship with the Mountain View web giant. In mid-January, Google threatened to shutter its China operation in response to an alleged Chinese hack attack on its internal systems, and days later, it said that it would postpone its launch of two Android phones on the Chinese carrier China Unicom - one from Samsung and one from Motorola - saying it would be "irresponsible" to let the launch proceed.

Google says it has made the decision to "no longer" censor results on its Chinese search engine, but it continues to censor results while discussing its position with government authorities.

Yes, Android is open source. But the China Unicom phones would have been branded "with Google" a la the Motorola-Verizon Droid or the T-Mobile-HTC G1, offering tight integration with various Google mobile applications. A Google spokeswoman now tells us the company has postponed "the availability of Google mobile applications on Android devices from operators in China."

This means that even without the Google brand, Motorola is barred from offering Google applications on its own Android handsets in the country. As Google postponed the launch of its China Unicom phones, Motorola told the world that its Chinese Android phones would allow users to choose their own search provider and that the native Chinese search engine Baidu would be among those on the list.

With its mid-January blog post on the alleged Chinese hack attacks, Google said that "over the next few weeks" it would be discussing "the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all". That was eight weeks ago, and though Eric Schmidt said yesterday that "something will happen" with the talks "soon," he said the company had "no timetable" for its discussions.

Last week, in Silicon Valley, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer downplayed the possibility of the company putting Bing on Android phones. "That's a little more complicated," he said. "Android without [Google] isn't Android. We're going to have to see where the Android market develops." But just a week later, the Redmond giant has inked a global pact with Motorola on Android.

Asked about the deal, Microsoft merely pointed us back to Motorola's press release, but as Ballmer put it, Redmond is very much interested in expanding the reach of mobile Bing through strategic partnerships. Microsoft has already signed a deal with US wireless carrier Verizon Wireless that makes Bing the default search engine on certain BlackBerries, and in this case phone owners are unable to use their browser's built-in search boxes with anything other than Bing.

Meanwhile, US carrier AT&T has introduced its first Android phone - the Motorola Backflip - and its default search engine is Yahoo!. Like Motorola's China phones, this is not a Google-branded phone, and the carrier is free to modify the browser search box however it chooses. ®

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