SINGAPORE: Google is scaling its hardware business, and this can be seen with the accelerated manner it is bringing its devices to Singapore - and the city-state is a “good model” for when the tech giant decides to do the same in the other regional markets.
Mr Rishi Chandra, vice president and general manager for Home Products at Google, told Channel NewsAsia in an interview on Wednesday (Apr 18), it had brought five products - including the newly launched Home and Home Mini - into this market in eight months and this is indicative of the market’s significance in the overall strategy.
He reiterated the stance of another Google executive, global director for Pixel business Nanda Ramachandran, who said in October that the company is taking the first steps to making Singapore an “anchored” market in the region offering most, if not all, of its hardware products.
Another step to achieving that goal was the launch of a dedicated online store for Singapore, which would give customers here local pricing, warranty and customer support. Devices like the PixelBook laptop and its artificial intelligence (AI) camera Clips are not yet available.
What this means, though, is to give a glimpse of how the Mountain View-headquartered tech giant is thinking about growing its hardware footprint globally.
Mr Chandra said: “(Singapore’s example) is a predictor to the future, and a good model to how it could enter the other Southeast Asia markets.
“But (expansion) also depends on the products (to be introduced),” the Google executive explained.
HARDWARE TO DRIVE VOICE COMPUTING VISION
More telling, however, is the way the US tech company views its hardware business in the context of where computing is headed.
Mr Chandra explained as computing shifts towards AI, hardware will be important as a driver of this shift, particularly in-device artificial intelligence.
Its second-generation Pixel smartphones is a good example of this, with AI baked into many of its key features. The single-lens camera, for instance, is powered by the company’s machine learning and computational photography capabilities and through this, make taking portraits using both front and back cameras a possibility.
Another example is the Google Home smart speaker, which is powered by its digital assistant - named, aptly, Google Assistant. And voice computing is where Mr Chandra sees exciting growth potential.
“Globally, 20 per cent of searches on Google.com via mobile phones are done through the microphone,” he pointed. “Think about the scale of that.”
AN IPHONE MOMENT BECKONS
He acknowledged that while voice-triggered computing commands is not natural for many developed markets - “It is a training to switch from typing to speech” - this is not so in emerging ones.
Take India for example. Google launched its Home and Home Mini devices there a week before Singapore, and Mr Chandra said many of the new consumers coming online have “quickly adopted” voice computing because they never used to type for queries before.
He also pointed to the next generation as another demographic that would embrace voice computing. They are not tied to a single way of computing, but rather will choose whichever method is easier, the Googler explained.
To put in another manner, Mr Chandra said voice computing is at the stage when Apple just released its first touch-enabled iPhone device.
“Then, people weren’t used to tapping on their mobile phone screens, but over time, they got used to it,” he said.
“It will be the same with voice computing.”