Google left China yesterday and will stop censoring its Chinese search results. While it is a monster step for the world's biggest search engine, it doesn't mean the end of the world for Google in China.
First of all, they only really left "mainland China." If you go to Google.cn, you'll be redirected to the Chinese language Google Hong Kong. Google is still in Hong Kong, China's Special Administrative region, where the "One Country, Two Systems" capitalist rule of law governs the land. You don't need to censor results in Hong Kong. Not yet anyway.
You can still get a lot of work done in China from Hong Kong. You can sell lots of ads for Chinese businesses and sign up lots of users. Apple was selling the iPhone in Hong Kong to mainlanders for over a year before the iPhone was released in Hong Kong.
Google being an Internet business, doesn't need its servers don't have to be in China either. Google just completed a huge trans-Pacific cable project that will allow it to have unprecedented speed to Asia...from its North American datacenters.
That is if China lets Google past its Great Firewall.
While Google is mostly about search (from a revenue standpoint anyway), they have a lot of other projects, but most of them are web and advertising-based services. While Youtube and Blogger are blocked, a few others remain. Again, Google can sell ads out of Hong Kong using third-party intermediaries.
Google's phone OS, Android, is sold for free. Chinese phone manufacturers can download it for free and install it for free. Google makes money on the apps and more importantly, the advertising on those apps.
In fact, who is to say that Google wasn't planning on pulling out of China in the first place? Maybe it just makes more sense to them to do business out of Hong Kong? At least until this whole spying thing blows over. Baidu has been killing them in the search market there anyway.
Google currently has an "evil meter" which gauges how many of Google's services that China blocks. They are looking fairly "evil" today (see the screen cap below). That page will likely be blocked soon as well.
This story, "Does Google Really Need to be 'in' China?" was originally published by Computerworld.