China's Second Largest Mobile Network Drops Google Search Engine on Its Cell Phones [Update]

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The slow drip of the Google backlash has started, it seems. China Unicom, the country's second largest cellphone operator behind China Mobile, is to remove the search engine from its Android smartphones. The cell-phone provider, which has suffered a 73% drop in profits, due to its customers' reluctance to use its 3G network, following massive investment in it, will leave the choice of search engines to handset manufacturers.

In another move that will no doubt ramp up the stand-off between the American firm and the Chinese authorities, Google has added a live Twitter feed to its Hong Kong-based search site. The tweets do not appear on every search, merely on popular Twitter subjects—such as how to get round China's Internet firewall.

Earlier this week the network provider was forced to drop a brace of cell phones it had been developing alongside Google, due to the Internet giant's ongoing tussle with China's censorship laws. Although most of the repercussions are not going Google's way, it has found two allies, in Go Daddy, who announced yesterday that it was pulling out of China, due to the country's surveillance and censorship issues, and Congress. Senator Byron Dorgan (D, North Dakota) praised Google for its stance on the censorship issue, while a New Jersey Representative, Chris Smith, dissed its search engine rival, Microsoft. "They need to get on the right side of human rights rather than enabling tyranny, which they're doing now," he said.

Google's, big competitor in China, Baidu, holds 65% of the market, compared to the American firm's 40%. What will hit Google hard, however, is if China Mobile and China Telecom, the two telcos with the most 3G subscribers, dispense with Google's services. So, is this when Microsoft muscles in? A couple of weeks ago, it signed a deal with Motorola to make Bing the default search engine for its Android phones in China.

Elsewhere in Googleland, yesterday's Chinese hack was not, it seems, a hack. It was a bug. They're common this year, as Winter segues into Spring, apparently.

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