Google has reintroduced its Translate mobile apps to China, where they can now be accessed and used without the need for software toÂ bypass local censorship.
The U.S. tech giant left ChinaÂ more than seven years ago when it redirected its local search engine to Hong KongÂ and many of its services are censored in the country.Â Todayâ€™s low-key relaunch marks the first time it has revived a service specifically for users in China.
Google has maintained a web-based version of Translate that has been accessible since its China exit, but with half of Chinaâ€™s 1.4 billion population using the internet on mobile, according to the latest government figures, these apps willÂ give the service wider reach.Â The iOS version of Translate is available in the Chinese App Store, while Google is directing Android users to aÂ direct download from its servers here.Â Previously, those in China could only use the app when connected toÂ a VPN to evade the governmentâ€™sÂ internet censorship system.
â€œGoogle Translate has been available in China for more than eight years. Today, weâ€™re making our Translate app work better for Chinese users,â€ a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
The apps will be maintained by Googleâ€™s joint-venture in China, which runs the services it has remaining there, and willÂ be subject to any government issued requests or censorship, Google confirmed.
Google addedÂ thatÂ users of the Chinese version have full access to the service, which includes Word Lens, the feature that translates text from photos snapped inside the app. Word Lens gained support Chinese last yearÂ andÂ Chinese was the firstÂ language Google picked for its new machine learning translation technology, which went live last SeptemberÂ and hugely advanced the way the service works.
â€œWith todayâ€™s update, weâ€™re hoping to make the Translate experience better for Chinese users, helping break down language barriers by connecting people around the world,â€ Google wrote in a blog post.
Publicly, at least, Google is saying that the launch of the Chinese version of the app is about giving more options to Chinese internet users, who also have services from Baidu and other Chinese companies available, but todayâ€™s news marks a notable advance on its China strategy.
Translate wonâ€™t generate revenue for Google, but it may boost its visibility among Chinese internet users. Potentially, it sets a precedent for introducing China-specific versions of other Google apps and services in the future, although the company declined to comment when we askedÂ it about that directly.
Then thereâ€™s also the possibility that this launch is a litmus test or precursor to the re-introduction of the Google Play in China.
Reuters, The Information and other media have consistently reported over the past year that Google harbors ambitions to bringÂ the Google Play Store toÂ Chinese soil. Despite the rumblings, thereâ€™s been no concrete advance on this apparent objective. Even then, thereâ€™s no guarantee that any such move would be successful. Chinaâ€™s Android ecosystem is dominated by a number of third-party app stores, including 91 Wireless (acquired by Baidu for $1.9 billion in 2013), Alibaba-ownedÂ Wandoujia, and offeringsÂ from Tencent and Xiaomi.
Chinaâ€™s colossal base of over 730 million internet users has turned it into an important market for mobile. The country recent overtook the U.S. to becomeÂ the worldâ€™s most lucrative market for iOS app developers, and its a market where Google has little footprint. The company connected China-based developers with its global app store footprint two years ago, but itâ€™s no surprise that Google is reported to be exploring the possibilities inside China.
Article source: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/28/google-translate-china/