Google downplays speculation about mainland return

Updated 2017-03-31 09:01:13 Global Times

The latest update to Google's Translate mobile app extends the reach of Chinese mainland users beyond a Web-based version of the translation service, the U.S. search giant said on Thursday, downplaying renewed speculation about its mainland comeback.

“The Web-version of Google Translate has always been accessible in [the market], and now Google Translate has been updated to version 5.8 on Android and iOS, [which] is an extension of Google's translation service that has always been available to [Chinese mainland] users,” Google told the Global Times on Thursday.

A low-key update of Google's Translate mobile app on Wednesday seems to have beefed up anticipation that Google might return to the Chinese mainland after a withdrawal from the market in 2010.

Finally the translation service has been made available without using a VPN, a user named “MXHJWAY” commented Wednesday on Apple's App Store. “Does this mean it plans to launch its [mainland] comeback?”

The app comes across as being well-received, with many users speaking highly of its augmented reality feature, Word Lens, that enables instant translation of text out of a photo.

The fresh speculation followed recent reports that Google Scholar will be the vanguard of the U.S. search giant's much-speculated attempt to re-enter the Chinese mainland market. “The academic sector will be the first to get through,” Liu Binjie, a lawmaker and former head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, was quoted as saying in a South China Morning Post article, speaking of Google's return.

Analysts, however, are less optimistic about Google's mainland return in the foreseeable future.

Google has pinned big hopes on China's domestic market and hopes to cultivate mainland user stickiness by efforts such as the availability of Google Translate on mobile devices, Zhao Ziming, an analyst with Analysys International, a Beijing-based Internet consultancy, told the Global Times. But this doesn't mean Google's search services are anywhere close to returning to the mainland, Zhao said.

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