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Android One arrives in India: 5 interesting revelations from Google VP Sundar Pichai’s interviews

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Google’s Delhi event saw the unveiling of three new Android One smartphones from Micromax, Spice and Karbonn, all priced at around Rs 6,399. Interestingly, this was the first time Google used India as the launchpad for taking off a brand new project. Being one of Android’s most ambitious announcements, Sundar Pichai, the Senior VP at Google for Android, Chrome and Google Apps was in his home country yesterday to take the wraps off the highly anticipated Android One programme designed for low-end phones.

Chennai-born Pichai joined Google in 2004 to take over Google’s Android division from Andy Rubin last year.  He completed his graduation from IIT Kharagpur before going on to pursue his post-graduation from Stanford University. He also has an MBA degree from the Wharton School. While Android One remained the crux of his interviews yesterday, we’ve jotted five other interesting revelations by the Android chief.

1. Google Cars in India? Not really
Earlier this week, Google put an end to all speculation about self-driving cars by finally introducing a working prototype of Google’s self-driven cars. The car that runs without a steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brake pedal, is powered by the right software and sensors that do all the thinking and driving for you. Google pushed out some videos asking random people to take a ride to show how smooth and intelligent the car is. Now, are these cars fit for Indian roads? Like most of us, Pichai doesn’t concur either. He told TOI, “That’s such a good question (laughs). When we work on 10X projects, we do it knowing that regardless of where they end up, they’ll be impactful because we’re aiming at doing something transformational. I don’t know if the car will be able to survive Indian roads on Day One but the technology will still be exceptionally important, because the combination of hardware and software that we’re using will really evolve state-of-the-art driving.”

2. A Google smartwatch is in the wings

Throughout his visit, Pichai was publicly wearing a watch that’s yet unnamed. When asked, he refused to talk about as it was still a prototype and of course ‘confidential’. In an interview with Mint he said, “This is a confidential prototype that I can’t talk about.” Then, why wear it to a public event with journalists? Perhaps he wanted us to know that the real iWatch competitor is in the making.

3. Samsung is still Google’s most valued partner
In the past couple of months, we’ve heard how Samsung has been rubbing Google the wrong way with its customised UI and of course Tizen-based devices. Google has also started showing too much love for other OEMs. Pichai maintains that Samsung will remain its valued partner.  “Android One is not in lieu of Android. It is one more option that we are providing. Samsung is our largest partner. We work with them in a big way. I don’t expect any of it to change. We are complex companies with different priorities. But that’s okay,” he told TOI.

4. No playing favourites
However, in an interview with Mint, Pichai has also clarified and states how Google doesn’t favour one partner over the other.  He said, “Yes, it’s a complex ecosystem but we have a pretty simple, neutral agenda. We run Android in a very open way and work closely with all partners. We work with Samsung and I spend a lot of time with them. But we’ve always supported other partners. Of course, things evolve within an ecosystem, and sometimes people can start seeing patterns and agendas that may not really exist. But we don’t strategize, favouring one player over another. So, it’s not really an issue for me.”

5. India first
If the chatter online is to be believed than Android One event had the essence of an international event. It was the first global launch for Google that took place in India. It’s kind of different because usually launches take place elsewhere before reaching the Indian market. When asked about this global program that kickstarted in India, Pichai told CNBC-TV18, “For us it is exciting because we actually are viewing India as our trial country. So, we want to launch this in India and learn, but use it as a place from where we take it to other places around the world. So, it is unique for us. Normally, we do stuff in the US and US is our trial country and we take it elsewhere but we are doing this differently.”

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