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Google's Pichai on Xiaomi, Cyanogen and the Apple Watch

Martyn Williams | March 3, 2015
The Google executive offered his views on a wide range of issues, including Android Pay.

In a wide-ranging discussion on stage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai offered his views on lots of issues at the heart of the mobile telecommunications industry.

He used the time to confirm Google's plans to launch a mobile carrier in the U.S. and gave an update on progress of its ambitious Project Loon and Project Titan airborne Internet experiments. Here's what else he said:

On Android's marketshare and the iPhone 6
The launch of the iPhone 6 gave Apple's market share a boost in the mobile market and put a little pressure on Android.

Pichai said he sees "very positive momentum" on Android and Apple's jump wasn't a surprise, taking the chance to remind the audience that Android had been there first with large screens.

"We knew bigger phones would have an impact, we've been doing it for a while."

On the Samsung Galaxy S6
Less than 24 hours after its launch, Pichai pulled one from his jacket pocket and showed it to the audience.

The phone, he said, "represents the state of the art in what's possible in a smartphone."

On Xiaomi
The Chinese handset maker first rose to international recognition when former Google executive Hugo Barra moved from Mountain View to Beijing to head up its international strategy. But more recently, it's gained recognition for its unique strategy: one new phone a year with software updates every week.

Pichai sidestepped direct comment on the company, but said he would love to see Google services rolled out in China (something not possible since most of the company's products are blocked in China) and was exploring the possibility of launch a version of the Play Store in the country.

"You see a lot of malware. There is a shared incentive for us to work there and we are working to make that possible."

On Cyanogen
The alternative Android distribution has gained fans among hardcore geeks and its backers recently criticized the control that Google exerts over the Android eco-system.

Pichai said he hasn't played around with a Cyanogen phone, so he doesn't know the platform's value proposition, but beyond the marketing message, "I would question building without Google services."

On Android Pay
Google Wallet hasn't taken off in any big way so far, but payments could be an important part of future smartphones. Android Pay is Google's payments platform, designed to sit under Google Wallet and competitors so that Android phones handle transactions in a standard way, no matter what the user-facing application.

Pichai said Google Wallet will be just one customer of Android Pay, under the company's vision. When asked about Samsung Pay, Pichai conceded Samsung is ahead -- he actually said Samsung is "on a slightly different time frame" -- but he expressed a desire to "work closely with them to see how we can align."

 

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