As Google Inc formally opened its engineering centre in Beijing Wednesday, the Internet search giant also gave itself a Chinese name.
|Staff members of the Google Inc. pose for a photo behind a billboard proclaiming the Chinese name of Google, in Beijing April 12, 2006. Google Inc. has given itself a Chinese name, "Gu Ge", which means "song of the harvest of grain", to capture more users. (Photo: Xinhua)|
Trying to make it easier for Chinese people to use its services, and in turn capture more users, US-based Google said it would also go by the name Gu Ge, which means "song of the harvest of grain."
It is the first time Google, which lags behind in China's Web search market, has given itself a new name in another language.
"Our No 1 goal here by far is to serve Chinese users, who want useful information on the Internet," said Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive officer.
Schmidt is visiting China with about half of Google's senior executives to have a closer look at the market, after the US giant last September announced its plan for the engineering centre in Beijing.
The centre has recruited about 80 engineering graduates in China, 15 from Google's headquarters in the Silicon Valley, California and five top search scientists from around the world, according to Kai-fu Lee, corporate vice-president and president of Google China.
"Most of our investment is in people," said Schmidt, adding the number of employees will soon grow to "a few thousand" in coming several years.
Google already has another engineering institute in Taipei, but it aims to have increased, larger research facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.
The CEO of the world's most frequently used search engine said the next goal is to have a data centre in China in order to serve local customers more quickly. It will then work with local libraries to bring more information from books to the Internet.
"Our business in China is not about revenue, but about serving end users," said Schmidt in an interview.
Google's major local competitor Baidu, which is listed on the NASDAQ with Google as a small investor, also got its name from a traditional Chinese poem.
|A staff member of the Google Inc. shows a billboard proclaiming the Chinese name of Google, in Beijing April 13, 2006. (Photo: Xinhua)|
The idea behind using a Chinese name helps the company reach more Chinese users, many of whom do not know English and have difficulties pronouncing the name, which prevents them from knowing and using the search engine.
According to the professional Internet research firm Shanghai iResearch, revenue of the Web search market in 2005 was 1.04 billion yuan (US$129 million), 82 per cent higher than in 2004.
Web search engine Yahoo! led the market with a combination of search services on three websites operating in China. Baidu ranked second with 26 per cent of the pie and Google was the third with 14 per cent.
Schmidt acknowledged it was "our mistake" not to come to China earlier, which has given Baidu a chance to surge ahead in the market.
All major research houses focusing on the Chinese market rank Baidu the largest single search engine in China.
A March survey by China Popular Computer Weekly involving 120,000 users shows that more than 60 per cent of Internet users use Baidu, while 28 per cent choose Google.
Schmidt said that although some other Internet giants from the United States, such as Yahoo!, AOL, Amazon and eBay, have difficulties exporting their dominance to China because of tough local competition and slow progress to meet local demands, it may not be a problem for his business.
"We are often not the first in the market, but we often grow more quickly," he said.