Google has denied bringing back its mapping service to China, following a report on Tuesday that the United States internet search giant is making it available again in the world's second-largest economy.
After an eight-year absence, Google doesn't have the necessary mapping data to do this all on its own. But users who try to access the app's navigation features are automatically redirected to AutoNavi, a mapping app operated by Alibaba. The Google Translate app was made available in the country past year, and a Go tournament was held in eastern China.
Google obviously has interest in the most populated country in the world.
Google's search engine and many of its services - including YouTube - remain blocked in mainland China. There is also an app for Apple devices distributed via the App Store.
Google's presence in China has increased marginally in recent times, but those excited about a rumoured optimized version of Maps for the country will be disappointed to learn the claims are untrue. Partnering with Beijing would also make it easier to collect large amounts of data by holding large-scale trials for technologies such as automated driving under the government's auspices. Google is of course an expert when it comes to AI tech and so rumors are that the Chinese government has temporarily shelved any discussions on search and other thorny issues and will instead focus on AI development.
Earlier this month, Google led a major investment in Chushou, a platform where users can live-stream games played on their mobile phones.
"With e-sports becoming a high-potential industry in China, Google sees an opportunity" to enter a market segment that is less politically sensitive, said IDC China managing director Kitty Fok. At least that's something to be happy about as it is a tentative move that shows Google is willing to work around the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.