Google betting on mobile Internet

By Elizabeth Tchii  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Mar 07, 2009 - Page 11

Google Taiwan is betting on mobile Internet, with the recent explosive growth in netbooks and smartphones, the company said on Thursday.

The company said it placed a dedicated team in Taiwan to look after its free Android mobile Internet platform — in close proximity to the world’s largest PC and smartphone contract manufacturers — and capitalize on the mobile trend, which it thinks will last for at least 10 years.

Research by Strategy Analytics Inc shows that Google could overtake Microsoft Corp as the No. 1 mobile operating system provider — with more than 50 million plus Android platform units — by 2012.

When Android was first introduced in the second half of last year, less than 10 million units were downloaded. This year the number is expected to grow to around 15 million units.

Chien Lee-feng (簡立峰), general manager of Google Taiwan, believes that for domestic technology companies to come out ahead, they need to develop their own brands, rather than be controlled by brand name vendors. Chien cited Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦) and HTC Corp (宏達電) as examples.

Although the PC market is dominated by foreign companies, the netbook segment is 80 percent Taiwanese, which was a promising sign for local tech firms, Chien said at a press gathering in Taipei.

“Local original design manufacturers face razor-thin profit margins of 3 [percent] to 4 percent. We believe our free Android platform will give them more breathing room,” he said.

Following up on comments by Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, Chien said he truly believes the Internet will be a critical part of global economic recovery. The search giant makes its revenues from Web advertising via its search functions and YouTube.

Google Taiwan said revenue grew 59 percent last year and it was now the market leader in Internet video and online maps.

Google Taiwan had an arrival rate of 52 percent in 2006, but by last year it had increased to 80 percent. The arrival rate is calculated by estimating the percentage of users online during a set period of time who access a certain Web site.