More than seven years after exiting China, Google is taking the boldest steps yet to come back. And it’s not with a search engine.
Instead, Google’s ingress is centred around artificial intelligence. The internet giant is actively promoting TensorFlow, software that makes it easier to build artificial intelligence (AI) systems, as a way to forge business ties in the world’s largest online market, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. It’s a wide pitch targeting China’s academics and tech titans. At the same time, Google parent Alphabet Inc. is adding more personnel to scour Chinese companies for potential AI investments, these people said.
“China is a tremendous opportunity for any company because it is by far the single largest homogeneous market,” said Kai-Fu Lee, who headed Google’s China operations before the company left in 2010. The market dwarfs any other, given how many Chinese people are online, and data from that “can be used to advance products, especially those relating to artificial intelligence”, he added.