Google is slowly piecing collectively a technique for China to make sure that it doesn’t miss out on the expansion of expertise on this planet’s largest nation. It’s been months within the making via a collection of gradual performs, however additional proof of these plans comes at present through a product launch.
Recordsdata Go — a file manager for Android devices released last year — has made its way to China today. Not an enormous launch, for positive, however the mechanisms behind it present perception into how Google could also be interested by the nation, the place it has been absent since 2010 after redirecting its Chinese search service to Hong Kong within the face of presidency strain.
For Recordsdata Go, Google is taking a partner-led method to distribution as a result of the Google Play Retailer doesn’t function in China. The corporate is working with Tencent, Huawei, Xiaomi and Baidu, every of which can inventory the app of their impartial app shops, that are amongst the nation’s most distinguished third-party shops.
Let that sink in slightly: the creator of Android is utilizing third-party Android app shops to distribute certainly one of its merchandise.
On the skin that’s fairly the state of affairs, however in China it makes excellent sense.
There’s been regular media speculation about Google’s need to return to China which, throughout its absence, has turn into the most important single marketplace for smartphone customers, and the country with the most app downloads and highest app revenue per yr. Principally the rumors have centered round audacious methods such because the return of the Google Play Retailer or the restoration of Google’s Chinese language search enterprise, each of which might imply complying with calls for from the Chinese language authorities.
Then there’s the politics. The U.S. and China are currently in an ongoing trade standoff that has spilled into tech, impacting deals, whereas Chinese language premier Xi Jinping has taken a protectionist method to selling native enterprise and industries, in particular AI. Xi’s extra controversial insurance policies, including the banning of VPNs, have put warmth on Apple, which stands accused of colluding with authorities and preventing free speech in China.
Even once you take away the political points, a full return is a troublesome problem. Google can be beginning companies virtually from scratch in a extremely aggressive market the place it has little model recognition.
It’s hardly stunning, then, that it hasn’t made massive strikes… but not less than.
As an alternative, it seems that the corporate is exploring extra nimble approaches. There have been opportunistic product launches utilizing established platforms, and usually Google appears intent at constructing relationships and rising a neighborhood presence that permits its international enterprise to faucet into the expertise and expertise that China affords.
Recordsdata Go is the most recent instance, however already we’ve seen Google relaunch its Translate app in 2017 and more recently it brought its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality to China utilizing companions, which include Xiaomi and Huawei.
Past merchandise, Google is cultivating relationships, too.
It inked a wide-ranging patent deal with Tencent, China’s $500 billion tech giant which operates WeChat and extra, and has made strategic investments to again AI startup XtalPi (alongside Tencent), live-streaming platform Chushou, and AI and hardware company Mobvoi. There have been occasions, too, together with AlphaGo’s three-game battle with Chinese language grandmaster Ke Jie in Wuzhen, developer conferences in China and the forthcoming first Google Asia Demo Day, which takes locations in Shanghai in September.
Along with making pals in the best locations, Google can also be growing its personal presence on Chinese language soil. The corporate opened an AI lab in Beijing to help access China-based talent, whereas it additionally unveiled a more modest presence in Shenzhen, China’s capital, the place it has a serviced workplace for employees. That transfer ties into Google’s acquisition of a piece of HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion.
The technique is little question in its early days, so now is an efficient time to maintain a eager eye on Google’s strikes on this a part of the world.