Google could return to China this fall after pulling out of the country five years earlier over censorship issues. The Information reports that a special Chinese version of Google Play will launch within the next few months, citing several anonymous sources.
The move is apparently driven by a desire to take control over the Android ecosystem in China, where it has become increasingly fragmented. Home-grown companies like Xiaomi offer their own forked version of the software, since Google’s own services aren’t available. Moving forward Chinese smartphones may offer a more consistent experience.
Google will have to submit to Chinese oversight in the country. That means censoring and removing apps from the Play Store if the local government finds that objectionable. The search giant will also be required to store all that data locally.
The new Play Store will apparently be limited to new devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and won’t offer ebooks, movies or any other digital media. Google has also reportedly partnered with ChinaPay to handle all mobile purchases.
The deal could pave the way for Android Wear devices to enter the country. The Mountain View company maintains much tighter control over its smartwatch software, which means it hasn’t been able to enter the region. As the smartwatch market picks up Google clearly sees China as a necessary part of the equation.