Google for India announces slew of India-specific products
Further strengthening its India focus, Google on Tuesday announced a slew of Made for India products at its ‘Google for India’ event in New Delhi.
In its second Google for India event, which also happened to coincide with the internet giant’s 18th birthday, the company launched YouTube Go, Google Assistant in Hindi (inside messaging app Allo), and faster browsing for Google Play on 2G connections. It also announced Google Station Wi-Fi platform and new data-saving features in Google Chrome.
YouTube Go has been designed to allow users to save and watch videos smoothly even in poor connectivity. It is also meant to help users manage data use by allowing them to preview videos first and choose the video’s file size before they save it offline to watch later. (Also read Google’s attempt at video domination crafted in and for India)
Users can also share videos with friends and family nearby, without any data use, by just pairing devices with a single tap. The product will be launched next year, but those interested can sign up (youtubego.com/signup) to become an early user, as YouTube Go rolls out gradually.
Even the punchline for the product is shudh desi “Mazze udao, Data nahi”.
Google has seen an increase of over 50% in Hindi searches in the last one year, its Senior Vice President, Search, John Giannandrea said. Taking a cue from this, the company is rolling out Google Assistant in Hindi later this year.
Google Assistant is an Artificial Intelligence-powered platform, much like iOS’s Siri. It is built into the company’s messaging app Allo, which was launched last week. In fact, Allo was available for download in India, before anywhere else, said Google’s Group Product manager Amit Fulay. The ‘smart replies’ feature on Allo which suggests responses to texts and pictures, will also be available in Hindi.
“Our goal has not just been to help more Indians get online — but also to help Indians create the online experience they want; one that serves their needs and enables them to have an impact on the entire world. So we have been thinking about how to build products and services for this wave of new users — products that work for any level of connectivity, in local Indian languages, and across the devices that are most frequently used in India, ” said Google’s Caesar Sengupta, who is Vice-President of Next Billion Users.
Every second, three Indians are coming online, Sengupta added.
Tuesday’s event also saw the announcement of fast browsing in Google Play, which preloads popular apps when connected to Wi-Fi, making them pre-cached and thus faster to install. The feature is an India first experiment, Google said.
It’s the success of Google Maps offline in India, that inspired the company to push out the Play experiment. Although now popular in the US and Europe too, Google Maps offline was first launched in the country last year. India has been one of the top users for Google Maps offline, Sengupta said.
The second edition of Google for India also unveiled Google Station, a new internet access platform, which will make it easy for Google’s partners to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in public places like malls, transit stations, and cafes. The initiative has been facilitated by Google’s partnership with RailTel and Indian Railways to provide Wi-Fi at railway stations in India, which was launched in January, Google said. More than 50 stations are now providing high-quality internet to 3.5 million people each month, Sengupta revealed.
Expanding the scope of Chrome ‘data saver’, which was launched earlier, the company on Tuesday said the feature would now also support MP4 videos, saving up to 67% of video data. “Chrome on Android will now also automatically optimize pages to their essentials when 2G-like networks are detected. These simplified pages load up to 2X faster, saving more than 90% of data usage,” Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, Vice-President, Product Management, Chrome, said.
For mobile users with data constraints, Chrome on Android’s new Download feature will now allow users to save web pages, videos, music, or pictures. Downloaded items can be accessed in Chrome’s new downloads tab, even when offline; and if users go offline before the download is complete, the process will automatically resume the next time they’re connected.
The number of users using the data saver mode has tripled in the last year, Roy-Chowdhury said, leading to 337 TB saved in India in a week. This amounts to Rs 7 crore savings per week, he claimed.
“Access will only be meaningful, if it works for everyone,” Rajan Anandan, Vice-President, India and South East Asia said at the Google for India keynote.
There are 350 million internet users in the country, which is set to touch 650 million by 2020, he said.