Update: According to a Google spokesperson, the company has not made any announcements or changes to Maps for China. A web version has been available in the country “for years.” Nikkei was also incorrect about the launch of an iOS client on Apple’s App Store, with no Android app either.
In recent months, Google’s presence within China has increased following its 2010 exit over a refusal to self-censor content. Today, the company is taking a big step with the launch of a China-specific version of Google Maps.
According to Nikkei, Google has launched a version of Maps optimized for the country. This includes a website, as well as an iOS app for the iPhone and other Apple devices. An Android client is not mentioned, though Google could always make it available as a direct download from its site — as it did with Google Translate last March.
According to initial hands-on of the app, Google appears to have partnered with Alibaba-owned AutoNavi for mapping data. This is likely due to how geographic data in China is restricted, with special authorization from authorities required. Meanwhile, for navigation, Google Maps launches a third-party app from the same local Chinese company.
Another of Google’s inroads into the country was this December with the launch of the Google AI China Center in Beijing. It was the first machine learning research for Google in Asia as the company tries to court talent and fund local AI research.
The Nikkei report notes that China is interested in developing artificial intelligence technology. Google, through its TensorFlow machine learning library, is a major player in the field and is already used by many AI researchers in the country.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, news surfaced that Google made an investment in a YouTube Gaming-like eSports startup.