Pichai bats for cheaper entry-level smartphones

Abhishek Law Kharagpur | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on January 05, 2017

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, interacting with students during a “chat session” at IIT-Kharagpur on Thursday

Google bets big on AI and machine learning

Prices of smartphones need to come down to facilitate access by people, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said on Thursday.

Speaking to students during a “chat session” at IIT-Kharagpur, his alma mater, Pichai said the entry-level price of smartphones should be in the range of $30 (approximately ₹2,100).

As of date, entry level smartphone prices in India are around ₹4,000-5,000.

“I would love to see cheaper smartphones, entry-level smartphones. I think we need to bring the prices down a little more,” he said.

Apart from bringing down the price, the other important issue for Google would be ensuring internet connectivity.

“And connectivity is extraordinarily important. That is why you have us working on the Wi-Fi project. Some 100-odd railway stations have already been connected,” he maintained.

This apart, “Internet Saathi” looks at empowering rural women regarding the use of internet. “We are focussed on bringing internet connectivity,” Pichai maintained.

Supporting Digital India

The internet major, Pichai said, was also a big supporter of the ‘Digital India’ programme.

Partnership with RailTel (for setting up Wi-Fi at stations), Aadhaar, UPI and NPCI were some of the initiatives that the company has taken up or is in the process of setting up.

“We are also working on digitising payments and towards having effective partnerships with these public companies,” he further added.

According to Pichai, another area of focus was to get Google working in as many regional languages as possible.

While Android supports search in regional languages, the next phase would see the internet major finetune its offerings targeting rural dialects.

Global competition

According to the former IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, the goalposts for India and China are different, especially on the digital front.

India will be a global player in digital economy and it will be competitive with any country in the world. “There is a timing issue. We are doing well as a country. We need to stay at it. We need a few more years and we will get to it. I am absolutely confident,” he said.

Confident that the “next big” global software companies will be from India in the next five to 10 years, Pichai maintained that Indian companies should aim higher. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are some of the developed neighbourhood markets.

To a specific question on the Indian market being not large enough to invest in technology, the Google CEO pointed out that the market is still developing. It will still take a few more years (to develop).

“Digital market is still developing. It is a problem we run into. It’s just a moment in time. Hopefully, Indian companies are also more thoughtful so that when they build stuff, they set their sights a bit bigger. The trend lines are in strong favour,” he added.

AI & Machine Learning

Google is also “betting big” on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

“AI and advances in machine learning are the big things in R&D (at Google). Can’t quite tell exactly when, but we are betting on that,” Pichai said.

Advances in machine learning, he pointed out, have already come in handy for early detection of retinal diabetes.

“It is an early example of the kind of changes that will happen (post) bringing advances in AI and machine learning,” Pichai said.

Published on January 05, 2017
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