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Google's Android One launch in India today with Micromax, Spice and Karbonn

Country hosts firm's first global launch today

Surabhi Agarwal  |  New Delhi 

Sundar Pichai

"What is Android One," asks a store manager at AndroidLand, one of the only four exclusive stores in the world for all things Android. Little does he know that, even as he speaks, Google Inc is giving finishing touches to one of its biggest projects around the mobile device - Android One. And, for the first time, a global launch by the company is being flagged from India - Android chief Sundar Pichai will on Monday unveil these smartphones. The low cost smartphones have been priced at around Rs 6399.

These devices are meant to give Google a tighter control over the system, so that users get a better Android experience. Google gives its mobile operating system, Android, for free to manufacturers, which can customise it for the sake of differentiation. But, this has made the Android ecosystem highly fragmented. Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook recently called it a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities.

Pichai, an India-born senior vice-president of Google, first unveiled Android One during his keynote address at Google's annual event in San Francisco in June. The project, he said, would cement Google's position in the low-cost smartphone segment for the "next billion" users, especially in developing countries like India.

  • The 42-year old India-born is the head of Android, Chrome and Apps for Google globally
  • Took over Android division last year, is credited with making it collaborative with Google's other businesses
  • Is said to have bettered Google's ties with key partners like Samsung
  • Was rumoured to be a candidate for the top job at Microsoft, which went to Satya Nadella
  • Went to IIT Kharagpur before doing an MS from Stanford University and an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Worked at Applied Materials and McKinsey before joining Google in 2004

However, awareness at the ground retail level currently appears zero. Outlets of mobile makers Spice, Micromax and Karbonn - hardware partners of Google for this venture - have little information. Perhaps to stop persistent questions, the store manager says the devices with Android One might be sold "only through the internet". He might only be guessing but he is bang-on.

Google is likely to ditch the traditional retail channel, in line with the latest trend. Its hardware partners will initially push the products through e-commerce portals. Spice has already announced a partnership with Flipkart last week. Micromax and Karbonn are expected to tie up with Snapdeal and Amazon.

The devices are likely to be dual-SIM, with 4.5-inch screens and FM radios, and will run on a MediaTek processor.

Invitations for the big-bang launch have been sent not only to journalists but to Google's umpteen partners, including the likes of Hindustan Unilever, besides government officials, executives of not-for-profit organisations and others.

These invitations for the high-security event contain QR codes, which have to be matched at the time of registration to attend the launch.

Pichai will be accompanied by his second in command, Vice-President (product management) Caesar Sen Gupta, who oversees product strategy for Android One and Google Chromebooks.

NOTE: The earlier version of the story that appeared in print had said that the device will be priced at around Rs 5000. The official price of the Android One has been announced at Rs 6399

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First Published: Mon, September 15 2014. 00:57 IST