China is one of the most lucrative markets on the planet for technology companies and for companies that want to leverage technology to reach consumers. Google falls into both of those categories, so making headway in the Chinese market can be a huge win for the company. In recent weeks Google has been making moves to try to pave the way to greater access to China including expansion of their AI offerings and by growing their manufacturing operations.
With the largest number of Internet users in the world and number 2 in online spending, China is a market where Google would very much like to get their services and products available to the market. Unfortunately for Google, China also exerts nearly complete control over what companies can do in the country, especially companies that provide access to information, a function that Google is notably adept at. Google has tried to work with the Chinese government in the past, but eventually decided they could not stomach the restrictions and requirements leading to their pulling out. Other platforms or companies like Facebook and Twitter have faced the same types of problems and even Apple finds its presence crippled within China.
One step that Google is taking is to expand their operations related to hardware manufacture and assembly in China. According to a new report in The Information, Google is expanding their hardware team in the country from last year’s 20 individuals to 150 engineers this year. Reporting to Mountain View, the team is believed to be working with those producing Google Home devices and some other devices like Pixel 2 phones or the Pixelbook.
Google also recently moved to launch a new AI research center in Beijing. Google has been working to provide open source TensorFlow AI tools to Chinese developers. Google’s tools have proven to be very popular and are helping Google gain yet another foothold in the country.
These different steps represent a break from Google’s previous attempts to get more access to China. Those were focused on direct access via agreements with the Chinese government. By tapping into the developer community and by inching closer on the manufacturing side, Google may be positioning itself to open new avenues to success in China that does not raise the ire of the government and helps to get more allies on their side.
source: The Information