Google is on the hunt for talent, hoping to double the size of its SA subsidiary from about 20 staff now, to roughly 40 people in the medium term.
That’s the word from Google SA’s new country manager, Luke Mckend, who took over the role in November from former country manager Stephen Newton, who left in April last year to join mobile advertising company InMobi.
Mckend, speaking to TechCentral in an interview on Wednesday, says he hasn’t set a timeframe for the appointments, but says the local Google office has begun advertising for engineers and other talent.
He says he is keen to build on recent product launches by Google SA, including a local version of YouTube, StreetView maps and local-language voice search tools.
Mckend is reluctant to talk about Google’s product plans for SA for 2011. However, the company is planning to expand its support for African-language voice search and is constantly expanding its StreetView coverage. StreetView images of the Kruger National Park will be supplemented with photography from smaller game parks, he says. The company is also expanding its StreetView images of Western Cape wine farms.
Good news for users of Android-based smartphones is that Google SA is exploring the possibility of bringing a full version of Android Market, with paid-for applications, to SA. However, consumers should not expect paid apps in the market anytime soon as the company still needs to overcome a number of “technical challenges”, Mckend says.
“We’re keen to get Android Market into SA, but it’s early days.”
Mckend, a South African who worked at Google’s UK office for three-and-a-half years, says his main objective for 2011 is establishing closer ties with big advertisers and with advertising agencies.
“We need to engage with our advertisers a little more proactively and help them get a return on investment from their online spend,” he says. It also wants to work more closely with developers interested in writing applications for platforms like Android, which has quickly become one of the most popular operating systems powering smartphones and tablet computers.
Mckend says he decided to take on the SA country manager role because the country is a “fast-growing Internet market” and has an “incredibly entrepreneurial environment” online. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral