What next for Google in China?
Tomorrow the search giant Google is expected to take the wraps off a healthy set of quarterly figures at its California HQ. But the numbers themselves will no doubt be overshadowed by events being played out on the other side of the world.
While analysts and the money men smile over the expected sharp jump in fourth quarter earnings, it will be interesting to note their comments and questions over the company's decision to consider pulling out of China.
Google said the move was prompted by a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property.
While attacks on companies like Google are routine, industry experts have in the last few days said the scope of this one was fairly unprecedented in recent years.
"I believe this is the largest and most sophisticated cyber-attack we have seen in years targeted at specific corporations," said George Kurtz, chief technology officer of security vendor Mcafee which has been investigating the attacks they have dubbed Aurora.
"What really makes this a watershed moment in cyber-security is the targeted and co-ordinated nature of the attack with the main goal appearing to be to steal core intellectual property." said Mr Kurtz.
Industry sources say this attack to spy on human rights activists is the one that broke the proverbial camel's back and has now resulted in the present brinkmanship.
"I'm sure a number of people will at least want to know, or get a picture, of how Google expects this will affect their revenue in the next quarter," Whit Andrews, lead analyst on Google for Gartner Research told the BBC.
"We are being told initially that it might add up to a rounding error financially. That won't worry any analyst for the next several quarters or more. When it will factor in is when analysts decide if Google is vulnerable to competitors or if it has closed itself off from a key growth market. As of today, Google has plenty of room to grow its existing market," said Mr Andrews.
One of those key markets is the cellphone market.
Even though China is already the world's largest mobile phone market, with more than 700 million accounts, Google has upped the stakes in this battle by postponing the launch of two Android phones in China.
Would the company seriously risk potentially massive future growth and revenues this part of the world could offer? Doubtful, say many sources, which puts Google in an interesting and tricky position.
While most people might well believe this will all play out with Google exiting stage left from China, nothing is certain.
Sure the options seem to be pretty limited given that Google has said it wants to run a Chinese language search engine that is unfiltered.
That means when a user types in Tiananmen Square they will get previously blocked information about the 1989 protests alongside sanctioned information like tourist tips on the historical Gate of Heavenly Peace.
In all likelihood China is unlikely to bend and has already said that foreign internet firms are welcome to do business there "according to the law".
Besides, this very public debacle has put China in a difficult position and "it cannot afford to lose face" as one analyst told me. And neither can Google now it has thrown down the gauntlet.
A couple of compromise scenarios come to mind that could allow the company to remain in China in some shape or form and for China to come off as a friend to business.
If for example, China said it needed help tackling the issues of porn and child exploitation as it has in the past, then perhaps the search giant might consider filtering those search results. But China is hardly likely to trade that off against blocking what it sees as sensitive information around say the Dalai Lama, Tiananmen or Taiwan.
Google could of course close down its Google.cn business but keep a presence in the country through its research and development arm, its sales team and/or engineering operation.
This might be quite a canny move given that industry sources told the BBC that "the majority of revenue out of China is not from Adwords on Google.cn. The majority comes from sales to Chinese companies that are advertised on Google.com in the States."
Keeping a sales force on in China would enable Google to safeguard this part of the business, apparently a very good money earner.
"There is a very good chance that Chinese consumers and business will continue to consume Google.com even if Google.cn were to vanish," agreed Gartner's Mr Andrews.
But can China and Google really work something out?
Officially the company is prepared to go to the mat over this issue.
"Over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," spokesman Gabriel Stricker told BBC News.
"We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China. We will be talking to the Chinese government over the next few weeks, and hope to reach a mutually constructive outcome."
At the Googleplex in Mountain View, employees and management are said to be "dismayed, but determined" about the whole affair.
The decision by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin should not surprise anyone, regardless of Mr Brin's experience in fleeing a restrictive regime in the Soviet Union with his Jewish-Russian parents when he was six years old.
Back in 2004 when the company went public, these two founders gave fair warning that they would do things differently.
"Don't be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served - as shareholders and in all other ways - by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains. This is an important aspect of our culture and is broadly shared within the company."
Who could have foreseen that this tenet would be applied to these kinds of events?
Shares in Google have soared from $282.85 almost one year ago, but have slipped in recent weeks from $629.51 amid uncertainty over the Nexus One and the company's status in China. Shares were up 1.5% at $588.92 on Tuesday.