Google announced that it had released voice search for Mandarin Chinese for Nokia S60 phones. This is potentially huge — if Google gets it right — because of the massive population in China. It could also drive more search usage and frequency. Google trails Baidu on the PC but mobile represents an opportunity for Google to grow share in that largest of all internet markets.
Google now says it understands a range of English accents, and Mandarin although it doesn’t yet get all accents in Mandarin. In addition, the capability will be coming soon to the Android and iPhone platforms in China. Dell has introduced a yet-to-be released Android handset (Mini 3i) and the iPhone just launched with the number two Chinese mobile carrier China Unicom. According to the Google Blog:
Although this only works on the Nokia S60 at the moment, we’re working on adding support for Mandarin speech recognition to our products on other mobile platforms, such as Android and iPhone. And bear in mind that this is a first version of our system in Mandarin, and it might not be as polished as our English version. For example, if you have a strong southern Chinese accent, it might not work as well as for people with a Beijing accent…
There are almost 700 million mobile users in China, more than 2X the US population as a whole. China Unicom reportedly has roughly 140 million subscribers. The largest US carrier Verizon has 89 million mobile subscribers. China Mobile, the largest carrier in China, has roughly 500 million users.
Here’s Google’s attempt at vintage “news on the march”-style newsreel footage. Unfortunately there’s no demo of the Mandarin capability: