New Delhi: Google India celebrated its 18th birthday by announcing five new products tailored for the India market at its ‘Google for India’ event in New Delhi on Tuesday.
This includes new products built specifically for India—YouTube Go; the Google Assistant in Hindi inside its recently launched messaging app Allo; faster browsing for Google Play on 2G connections; as well as new, global platforms inspired by the needs of Indian users—the Google Station Wi-Fi platform; and new data-saving features in Google Chrome for mobile.
Rajan Anandan, vice-president, India and South-East Asia, set the agenda at the start of the event by outlining what Google India had accomplished over the last year and what its strategy was going forward to get the next billion users in India online.
Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Next Billion Users, outlined the three main areas where Google is working to provide a better and more inclusive online experience for users in India: access (connecting people to the Internet), platforms (letting people and developers share through and build upon the Internet), and products (providing better and more relevant Google experiences for Indians).
Defining the strategy, he said: “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 Sengupta.
Sengupta announced a new Wi-Fi platform called Google Station, inspired by the success of Google’s partnership with RailTel and Indian Railways to provide Wi-Fi at railway stations in India, with 52 stations now providing high-quality Internet to 3.5 million people each month, the latest being Mumbai CST.
This new platform will work with partners to roll out Wi-Fi hotspots, offering carriers, system integrators and venues an easy way to set up high-quality, user-friendly Wi-Fi. This will provide more people in India and around the world fast, reliable, and safe Wi-Fi in more of the places where they spend time, like malls, transit stations, and cafes. Google Station aims at targeting brand new users coming online for the first time. There will be a simplified unified login that will make Google Station easily discoverable to users.
Besides this, Sengupta also announced fast browsing in Google Play for people on 2G and other low-bandwidth connections. Fast browsing uses preloading on Wi-Fi to load the most popular parts of Google Play quickly. And when a user on a low-bandwidth connection chooses to install an app, Google Play will offer a new “Wait for Wi-Fi” option where the app will only install when the phone next connects to Wi-Fi. Fast browsing launches on Tuesday as an experiment exclusively to Play users in India.
Similarly, Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, vice-president, product management, Chrome, announced a group of tailored features for Chrome that make the web a better place for mobile users facing data constraints.
Also Read: Can Google Allo match up with Apple’s Siri?
The new Data Saver mode— which reduces the amount of data Chrome uses on Android mobile devices, computers, and Chromebooks — will now support MP4 videos, saving up to two-thirds (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. Chrome on Android’s new Download feature will now allow users to save web pages, videos, music, or pictures. Downloaded items can be easily 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 next time they’re connected.
John Giannandrea, senior vice-president of search, talked through the improved support for more Indian languages in Google products and the evolution of search to meet the needs of mobile users while Amit Fulay, group product manager, announced that a preview of the Google Assistant will be launched in Hindi by the end of 2016 inside the brand new Allo messaging app. The Google Assistant lets users have a conversation with Google, which can help them get things done.
However, the biggest announcement was that of YouTube Go—a new YouTube mobile app reimagined for the next generation of YouTube users in India. YouTube Go is designed and built from insights gathered from all over India, especially rural India, and has been completely reimagined from the ground up for the next generation of YouTube users to fully discover all that YouTube has to offer.
It is born out of extensive research done across 15 cities in India by teams of engineers, designers, and researchers collecting ideas and testing prototypes with hundreds of people. Over the next few months, YouTube will be rolling the app out gradually to more testers, getting their feedback and improving the product before launching it to the general public.
At the launch of YouTube Go, Johanna Wright, YouTube vice-president for product management, said: “YouTube Go is a brand new app to help the next generation of users share and enjoy videos. YouTube Go was designed and built from the ground up with insights from India, in order to bring the power of video to mobile users in a way that is more conscious of their data and connectivity, while still being locally relevant and social. YouTube Go not only allows users to save and watch videos smoothly even in poor connectivity, it also gives them transparency and control over how much data they consume on videos, allowing them to preview videos first and choose the video’s file size before they save it offline to watch later. They can also share videos easily with friends and family nearby, without using any data at all.”
In 2014, Google had launched YouTube Offline so people could watch videos without buffering. A few months ago the company rolled out Smart Offline, a feature that allows scheduling videos to be saved offline later for off-peak times when there’s more bandwidth so data is faster and cheaper.
Now, YouTube Go is for the next generation of YouTube users to fully discover all that YouTube has to offer. “With YouTube Go, we’re bringing the power of video to mobile users in a way that is more conscious of their data and connectivity, while being relatable and social,” Wright added.