Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the Internet giant is open to returning its search business to China, if it could be done right, he told an industry conference.
"If we can do it in the right and thoughtful way, we are always open to it," said Pichai at the Code conference here. "I care about serving consumers everywhere."
Google pulled out of mainland China and moved its Chinese-language search engine to Hong Kong in 2010 after a series of cyber attacks on Google originated in the country. Google also said it would stop censoring search results in China.
The controversial move cut Google off from the fast-growing Chinese market, one that's been courted by rival Facebook and constitutes the second-biggest market for Apple.
Last year, tech-industry news site The Information reported Google was seeking Chinese approval of its Google Play app store. Much of Pichai's session at Code was devoted to Google's development of artificial intelligence for voice-activated searches. Pichai said Google sensed a shift in what it could do three to four years ago, performing more effective voice searches, and transitioned.
"We saw significant step changes," he said. "We felt the inflection point and made a big shift internally."
Now one out of every five searches are done via voice, instead of keyboard typing, and Pichai expects that to greatly grow over the next years.
"We've been doing it longer," he said, without answering the question specifically. "People have been asking questions to Google for a long time."
Still, he agreed with a comment made by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at Code: "When it comes to machine learning and AI, it is still early days for all of us."
Google will release a voice-activated speaker, Google Home, similar to Amazon's Echo, later this year. Pichai said it will be different because it will play to Google's strengths. "We will be building a true conversational device."
今年晚些时候，谷歌将会推出与亚马逊的Echo类似的智能语音设备Google Home。皮查伊表示，Google Home的不同在于具有谷歌的优势。"我们将会配置真正的对话设备。"
He reminded that Google wasn't always first to release a product. There were search engines before Google, e-mail before Gmail and mapping before Google Maps. "You take the long view and bring your strengths to it. This is the heart of what we do."
Privacy, which has been a recent concern as voice-activated and "always listening" assistants get more sophisticated, could be addressed by smarter controls, Pichai said. For instance, a user could ask Google to take away the past four hours.