In his maiden visit to any country as Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai highlighted the company’s vision and product updates aimed at bringing Indians online.
Speaking at a ‘Google for India’ event in Delhi on 16 December, Pichai and a team of Google product leads announced initiatives including free WiFi in Railtel stations from January 2016.
In his keynote, Rajan Anandan, VP – India and Southeast Asia, Google, outlined the promise India held and challenges it posed.
“By 2018, more than 500 million users will be online in India, from all 29 states, speaking over 23 languages. But in 2020, over 30 per cent of mobile internet will still be from 2G-like connections. Google has been on a long journey in India to build products that connect more people, regardless of cost, connectivity, language, gender, or location,” Anandan said.
Through a two-hour presentation, the team explained steps Google is taking to make its products work better for Indians. Here are some of the key points made by Google reps:
● The ‘lighter’ version of search results and webpages have been a success, with much faster loading times and increased traffic for publishers.
● The company has created a new virtual keyboard that makes it easy to type in 11 Indian languages.
● Recently, a feature in Google Maps called Offline Maps was launched, that allows real-time navigation of roads and searches for locations without a data connection. Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of product management for Google Maps, said, “Offline Maps is a feature we expect to be useful around the world, and countries like India will truly benefit when it comes to accessing Google Maps with expensive, slow or limited connectivity. In fact, India is one of the top five countries that has the most people using Offline Maps today.”
● Last year YouTube launched an offline feature in India to help people watch videos without a connection. Eyal Manor, VP of engineering for YouTube, announced an additional feature that will let videos buffer while they are paused for those on limited bandwidth.
● In the first quarter of 2016, Google will release a feature called Tap to Translate that allows instant translation of any text on the Android phone. Caesar Sengupta, VP for Google’s next billion initiatives, said, “Our most active users in India translate between Hindi and English multiple times a day, spending lots of time copying messages from friends or colleagues, translating them, writing responses, translating their responses, and then pasting them back into an app. With ‘Tap to Translate’ you can copy text anywhere on your Android phone and instantly get the translation, right then and there — without ever leaving the app.”
Google also wants to make it easier for Indians to build on top of its global platforms like Android and Chrome, to build solutions to local problems.
A programme has been announced, wherein the company will train two million new Android developers over the next three years, working with 30 universities across India in partnership with the National Skill Development Corporation.
Jason Titus, VP – engineering, developers product group, said, “We’re already seeing incredible growth in the number of developers in India, and our forecasts indicate that this is growth is not going to slow down anytime soon. At Google, we’re committed to providing access to tools that empower developers to be successful.”
Besides which, Chromebit, a small device that turns a monitor into a computer, will be available in India starting in January. This is meant to help boost computing in the education sector.