Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is reportedly planning to use India and other emerging markets in Asia Pacific as testing grounds for a new over-the-top mobile messaging app that will most likely launch in 2015.
Google sent product manager Nikhyl Singhal to India and other unnamed countries in Asia Pacific to scout out local ecosystems in preparation for unveiling the messaging app, according to the Economic Times of India, which added that a Google representative declined to comment. Singhal is said to also oversee Google Hangouts, Photos, Google+ core and Platform.
The free Google messaging app would compete with other OTT messaging products, such as WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat and Line, all of which have sizable user bases in India and other markets worldwide. The Economic Times said the Google app would not require use of a Google login.
India, where the mobile phone represents the first introduction to the Internet for many people, is becoming a battleground for wireless-industry giants. Gartner has predicted that the number of mobile connections in India will grow to 815 million this year, and India is expected to become the world's second-largest smartphone market after China by 2019.
Google's effort to create its own messenger product comes as Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) closes in on acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion. The European Commission this week unconditionally approved the transaction, which was previously cleared in April by U.S. government antitrust authorities.
At the Mobile World Congress trade show in February 2014, Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai shot down reports that Google had offered $10 billion for WhatsApp, saying those rumors were "simply untrue."
WhatsApp has about 600 million users worldwide, while Facebook's Messenger app has 300 million users, which are also on its social-networking platform, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- see this Economic Times article
- see this Reuters article and this article
- see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)
- see this Mobile World Live article
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