Google Messenger In Early Stages Of Development After Losing WhatsApp Bid to Facebook
It is rumored that Google is hard at work developing a Google Messenger app for initial launch in emerging markets like India. The initiative may have come from their loss to Facebook when they tried to buy out WhatsApp and lost to the social media giant.
Market Research, Google Style
Nikhyl Singhal, a popular product manager at Google, was recently dispatched to India to research the nascent messaging eco system there to determine what apps are doing the best, why and how Google can develop a product that will beat the messaging competition in one of the larger potential smart phone markets in the world. India is a good place to start due to the huge population with only 10 percent smart phone adoption presently which has spurred Google to push their AndroidOne initiative to sell a sub $100 smart phone to every Indian who doesn't yet own an internet-ready device.
In this endeavor Google knows that they are largely playing a game of catch up to other rivals with apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat and Snapchat. Google reportedly stumped up $10 billion to try to buy WhatsApp but was outbid by Facebook who was willing to part with $19 billion.
Singhal who remains the product management director for Photos, Hangouts and Google+ is also visiting other countries within the Asia Pacific region to see which messaging apps are popular there and why? What he is likely to find is a diversified picture with no one messaging app being overly popular. Facebook has a good hold, but WhatsApp and LINE are also used extensively throughout south-east Asia with Skype barely used in some countries.
Yahoo is also still popular in Indonesia because it was given away with many PCs early on but with the move to mobile in that country other messaging apps have become popular too. No one messaging app has dominance in Asia but Facebook does remain universally popular.
No Google Login Required
Unlike with other Google products and services, it is not expected that the Google Messenger app will require users to have a Google account or to even create one. Local customization is expected to include native Indian language support (there are multiple languages used regionally throughout India so this won't be a slam dunk) and voice to text messaging will also be possible. The app is likely to be free unlike the WhatsApp app which operates on a freemium financial model currently.
India As A Testing Ground
India is largely being seen by the search giant as a testing ground for their various products and initiatives. It is no surprise that the AndroidOne low cost Android smart phone initiative is based there. The size of the potential market makes it a juicy target with 3 times as many people as the United States who could ultimately become smart phone users.
The Indian app messaging market is not small anyway. 65 million WhatsApp users are in India (more than 10 percent of the total WhatsApp user base), LINE has 18 million users there, Viber is seeking 30 million by the end of 2014 and Indian messenger app Hike already had 35 million users across the country. Competition is hotting up. Google has a lot of catching up to do.