Google China Working On Wearables Amid Major Expansion: Report

Google's Chinese unit headquartered in the Shanghai World Financial Center is presently working on wearables and a number of other devices amid a major expansion in the Far Eastern country, The Information reported on Tuesday. The company's Android Wear platform is presently one of the most popular choices among smartwatch manufacturers but the Alphabet-owned tech giant has yet to commercialize a first-party offering in this product category. It's currently unclear whether the Chinese division of Google is currently developing a device in the vein of a Pixel Watch or is pursuing entirely different projects in the wearable segment. The team itself grew to 150 employees, up from 20 it had at this point last year, with the expansion reportedly being largely prompted by the company's growing ambitions in the consumer electronics segment.

Besides wearables, the Shanghai-based unit is said to be developing Google Pixel, Home, and Pixelbook products, as well as virtual reality headsets. The unit's exact role in Google's global operations remains somewhat undefined but overseeing manufacturing of existing devices is said to be part of its responsibilities, while its proximity to major parts suppliers is also suggestive of prototyping tasks. The division consists of some founders of Jide Technology, a Chinese startup founded by three ex-Googlers with the goal of creating Android-powered PCs and mobile firmware based on Google's ubiquitous operating system. Some senior Amazon and Apple employees also recently joined the firm's Chinese division that continues to grow on a rapid basis.

While the unit is now understood be playing an increasingly important role in the development of the company's hardware products, the Mountain View, California-based Internet giant reportedly still has no intentions of selling its devices in the country as its relations with Beijing remain strained following the discontinuation of a local version of Google Search in 2010. China's protectionist economic policy also isn't conducive to foreign investments, especially in the context of consumer-facing products and services, but Google is now understood to be returning to the country in a less direct manner, promoting its AI-related solutions like TensorFlow and selling advertisements to local firms with global ambitions. A possible return of Google-made Android apps to China still seems unlikely but the firm appears to be adamant to not give up on the largest Internet market on the planet. Google's consumer hardware efforts are presently primarily focused on smartphones and Home speakers, with the Google Assistant-enabled Pixel Buds earphones receiving a lukewarm reception from critics and consumers alike after being released earlier this fall.

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