A customer gets connected at Google's China headquarters in Beijing.… (Ng Han Guan / Associated…)
Google Inc. said Tuesday that the launch of two new mobile phones in China has been delayed, a move that showed the company's clash with Beijing is crimping more than just its search business.
Google-powered handsets from Motorola Corp. and Samsung were scheduled to be unveiled today from China Unicom, one of the Asian nation's largest telecommunications providers.
Google said last week that it might shut down its search engine in China in the wake of a sophisticated cyber attack originating in China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from the company's servers, as well as the targeting of human rights activists' e-mail accounts.
Now the reverberations of Google's decision appear to be affecting its mobile phone plans, a focal point of its future business strategy.
In the last year Google has added more than a dozen new smart phones to its family of Android-operated mobile devices, including Motorola's Droid and the more recent Nexus One, which Google engineered largely on its own.
China has 700 million mobile phone users and is considered one of the fastest-growing technology markets in the world.
Sources close to Google said the company felt it would be unwise to offer new phones in a market now fraught with political and economic uncertainty brought on by the rift between China and the technology company.
Google said last week that it would confer with Chinese officials to try to find a way to keep an uncensored version of its search engine running in China. The company said that might take weeks, and on Tuesday stated that those discussions were "in a holding pattern."
The Android operating system is a Google creation that tightly integrates the company's various search, mapping and information services. In that sense, a move by Google to take its search engine offline in China could also interfere with the functioning of Google-based phones.
The company announced last week that it would remove restrictions on its search engine results after disclosing it had been the victim of "highly sophisticated" hacking attacks in December, partially targeted at human rights activists opposed to Chinese government policies.
In recent days, the Chinese government has said it welcomes Internet corporations "to do business within China in line with the law," including "explicit rules on what information should be prohibited on the Internet."
The delay of the phones' launch did not appear to spook investors. Google's stock closed at $587.62, up 1.3%.