March 25, 2013
Google chairman Eric Schmidt speaks Friday in Rangoon. The company has big plans for Burma, and they're closely linked to the country's plans for mobile. Burma's President, Thein Sein, has set a goal of 80 percent mobile-phone penetration by 2015, from current rates of 9 percent. With internet penetration as low as 1 percent, and fixed-line telephony penetration in the single figures even in big cities, mobile networks will be the only way the vast majority of Burma's 50 million people can get online, and will serve as the main communications infrastructure for a modern information economy, including banking, media and civic services.
Sources at Google told Quartz about the following services that the company plans to launch over the next few months. (A spokesperson said the company had "nothing to announce at this time regarding product launches or future launches in Burma.")
Google.com.mm. Google will launch a search engine portal with native Burmese-language support in the next few weeks. Some sharp-eyed users caught a glimpse of an early test version that went up a few weeks ago and posted it on Instagram (above).
Burmese-language support integration . Language support is at the core of pretty much everything Google does. Services such as the Android mobile operating system, Google Translate, Google Search and Google Drive are unusable in Burmese without it. The only way to get a Burmese-language Android phone is to jailbreak it, so it can work with a host of locally-built apps. Although HTC launched Burmese-language Android phones earlier this year, Google will put up its own language translation and font system based on Unicode, the international standard. Debates over Unicode have waged for years in Burma, where it is not popular, but Google has settled on it. Support for Search and Android will come first; other services will happen later.
Read more at Quartz.
March 25, 2013