Motorola works around Google issues in China

The handset maker has developed its own app store and partnered with Baidu

Following Google’s decision to postpone the launch of a new Motorola Android phone in China, Motorola announced services and partnerships that will enable it to pursue the Chinese market without Google.

Motorola on Thursday introduced its own Android app store for China and a deal with Baidu, the leading search provider in China. The new Shop4Apps store will be available on smartphones by the Chinese New Year in mid-February, Motorola said.

The phone maker also said that it is adding a feature that will let users choose which search provider they’d like to use. Motorola named Baidu as one option but did not name others.

Motorola said it is working with carriers in China and others to provide “a full suite of services” in the app store, including e-mail and maps.

The announcement is notable because it follows so closely after Google said that it may pull out of China following the cyberattacks targeting the search giant and others that originated in China. Subsequently, Google postponed a planned launch of Android phones from Motorola and Samsung in China that was scheduled for this week.

Google’s moves put handset makers in an awkward position. Since Android is open source, a handset maker does not require support from Google to deliver phones. However, the leading Android handsets feature Google services like Search with Voice, Maps and Gmail. If Google no longer can include those applications on Android phones in China, the phones are likely to be less attractive to consumers.

As a result, it appears that Motorola has decided to deliver such applications from other sources, either through partnerships or its own development.

But since the unveiling of the app store and partnership with Baidu come just days after the postponed phone launch, Motorola was likely already working on the services, said Chris Hazelton, an analyst with the 451 Group. He suspects that Motorola may have been planning to unveil this announcement during the Mobile World Congress in mid-February.

“Looks like Motorola has wanted to rely less on Google’s services in China for some time. This tie-in with an important Chinese holiday, and partnership with Google’s rival in China – Baidu – is a big slap in the face for Google,” Hazelton said.

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