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Google’s SVP Sundar Pichai on developing for mobile, Voice & Google Now, standardization of Android

sundar-pichaiGoogle’s SVP Sundar Pichai was in Gurgaon, India, yesterday, to launch Android One in the country, and followed it up with an with entrepreneurs and developers at an event organized by NASSCOM. Notes on what Pichai said, from a developer ecosystem perspective:

On Android One

– Android growth in India: Globally, Android had 1 billion 30 day active users in June 2014. In India, it is growing at a faster pace than it is globally: Android users tripled in India in the last 12 months.

– Launched to help increase access: 1 billion of 4 billion people who don’t have access to the Internet, are in India. Issues impacting growth of the Internet on mobile span hardware (People need to get access to the same quality of hardware), Software (Phones aren’t very secure and the experience is inconsistent accross devices) and connectivity (people don’t have access to quality connectivity). Android One tries to address all three.

– Hardware and software challenges Android One addresses: “You have to source components and test it. As we change the software, we have to retest everything. This drives compexity for the OEM. With Android One, we’re providing a hardware reference board, with a turnkey solution. Where Android One is headed is, with each OEM, we give a menu option, where they can choose hardware options.” In software, we’re operating like the ISI (the Indian : it’s a software which is secure, all your data is fully backed up in the cloud, and we provide the same customisability on top op OEM. You can add services and change the skin tailored to your needs. People can use Android one to build a whole variety.”

– Is Android One a step towards standardisation of both hardware and software? how will it impact innovation on Android?
“Android will exist, in areas where there is a need in the market, and even with Android one, we will keep increasing choice and flexibility. You’re just seeing the start of the program today. With time, you’ll see us do a lot more.”

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For Developers

– Developing for both mobile and consumer web: “Android is an open platform with that many users and that many people rely on. It’s the power of open systems, and you enable many people to do things. What Micromax did in India, which were working on dual SIM phones, which they understood the need of the market and drove that innovation. You’ve seen evidence of it all around the world. We run into people who are transforming things. Today, on top of android, we see many many successors. It’s a win win for both us, and developers everywhere”…”Almost all the growth in India is coming from mobile. It’s just the evolution of computing. We’re investing a lot on chrome on android. Things in computing evolve very rapidly. We’ve barely scratched the surface. There are things which the we boes which are hard for many of us do. We won’t see the Internet balkanised as web and mobile”…”The challenge for us is that computing needs to evolve at a very fast pace. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. We value the diversity, and we want that choice, as well as you need to steer this thing in a particular direction.”

“(Mobile is) A lot of it is about simplicity. Mobile has a lot of constraints. It forces you to distill the app to what really matters. The web tries to be all for everyone. It’s the great unbundling that mobile is driving. On the web, we could have had hangouts within Gmail. On the mobile people are in this immersive single use cases. Distill what people are using your app for. People are on the go and busy. Distill and deliver for single use cases. Uber does it very very well, and they deliver that value. That’s been the story of mobile. Having the clear goal of what we’re trying to do for consumers.”

– Voice will do for mobile what search did for the web: The user interface is beyond a few apps is hard for users. In some ways, it’s a huge opportunity. Reminds me of the early days of the web, where you had a directory till something like Google came around. Google Now starts pushing the info to you. It’s a different interface for computing. Voice and Google Now will change the way we work”…The good thing about technology is that the only constant is change. You can imagine walking into your home, and find the app on your TV. You will speak to the TV, and talk about things that you want to do.”

– Computing is going to play an increasing role in our lives: People will demand more access to it. You’re seeing it in subtle places. Those of you familiar with Nest, you’re dealing with software. You can take Tesla, it is an electric car. But if you drive a Tesla, the central dashboard runs an OS, and it is continuously improving and updating. The way I think about it, computing will go to places where you are, and will serve users. A lot of time people underestimate the amount of glass in their places. Glasses can one day be computing screens. This will take time to happen, but for us, how do we create this model where for users, it is natural and intuitive. You’re seeing this with wearables as well.

Responding to some audience questions:

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– How will enterprise apps change with mobile? “The line (between consumer and enterprise) blurs over time. There isn’t a luxury of not adopting. In the PC world, we segmented these spaces. In mobile the model breaks down. Most people demand a corporate experience on personal devices. We’re seeing growth for Android on mobile on enterprise. We announced Android for Work, and in a few months, we’ll roll it out. We’ll bring Android to the enterprise, and it will set the stage. Enterprises take time to change. What is happening on the consumer side will happen in enterprises.”

– On lack of support from the Android developer team in India: “The scale at which Android has grown, we’ve constantly been sub-scale. Where India is now, it has been about potential. Numbers ahve been small. That is beginning to change, and there’s a tipping out. It’s about priorities. In the end, numbers matter and this is the advantage that China has. As India scales its user base, we are scaling our developer outreach, and we’re hoping to support this better.”

– On a change in Chrome API, apparently without notice, that adversely impacted an Indian software business: “It’s hard, when you work at scale, and sometimes some things get disrupted.”

– On the web being more open than native apps (Grexit works with gmail on the web, but the Gmail app on mobile is closed): Sundar: “The web has some unique things, which we lose in mobile apps. As we evolve, we have to figure out ways to do things.”

– On multiple marketplaces (Play Store for Android, Chrome apps and Business apps marketplace): “We’re focused on the Google Play Store and the Chrome Web store. Within a year, the business apps store will migrate to the chrome web store”.

Later, on Android and Chrome being developed as separate platforms: “We don’t want to drive convergence for convergence sake. If we do convergence, we wont come to products like Chromecast. Chrome will be much more integrated with Android we go on.”

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Also read:

Interviews with The Economic Times and Mint, though Pichai appears to have been quite evasive.

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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