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Google to make Taiwan its main hardware R&D hub outside US

Tech giant says island will be core location for its engineers

Google has been stepping up its investment and engagement in Taiwan in the past few years as the island becomes increasingly important to its hardware development.

TAIPEI -- Google on Wednesday pledged to expand its research and development team in Taiwan, making it the American tech giant's biggest hardware engineering hub outside the U.S., in a sign of the democratically ruled island's growing significance in the global supply chain.

Elmer Peng, vice president for hardware at Google Taiwan, told Nikkei Asia in an interview that most of Google's hardware products -- including Pixel smartphones, Nest smart speakers and other connected devices -- are built and developed in Taiwan.

"Taiwan's team ... is set to be responsible for an even wider range of hardware lineup developments in the future," Peng said. "It's really the core of our global hardware taskforce."

Google's headcount in Taiwan grew 10-fold between 2016 and 2020 with offices across six cities, Peng said, without offering a precise number of employees locally. He said the workforce will continue to expand in the next five years.

The planned hiring covers hardware engineering, project managers, sales and marketing, supply chain management and user interfaces, and the company also needs experts on software and data centers, Peng said. "We really value the quality of Taiwanese engineers and its complete supply chain ecosystem and its agility ... but we hope also to attract global talent here."

Google has more than 100 job and internship openings in Taiwan at the moment, according to the company's website.

Google has been ambitious in expanding its hardware lineup, a move aimed at locking more users into its ecosystem. It has become the world's second-largest voice-activated smart speaker maker after Amazon, according to Strategy Analytics.

The company on Wednesday opened its new 16-story hardware engineering center in New Taipei City and said it planned to open another building in the same compound in 2023 for its growing workforce. Google will also increase internship opportunities with positions in hardware engineering and Google Cloud service collaboration with Taiwanese universities this year.

Google has been stepping up its investment and engagement in Taiwan in the past few years.

In September last year it announced it will build its third data center on the island, after it set up its second data center in Taiwan in 2019.

The company has said it selected Taiwan because of its "geographic advantages" as well as the fact that multiple deep-sea communication cables connecting the U.S. and Asia pass through Taiwan, making it an important location for data centers. Singapore is Google's other location for data centers in the Asia Pacific region.

Microsoft last year also announced plans to build its first cloud-computing data center in Taiwan and to make it its key operating hub in Asia.

The hardware supply chain in Taiwan is another key attraction for Google. The company in 2017 acquired Taiwanese smartphone brand HTC's research and development team, which worked on Google's Pixel smartphone, for $1.1 billion. The team includes around 2,000 hardware and software engineers.

Google also has a deep collaboration with Taiwanese tech suppliers. It develops its own artificial intelligence accelerator chips, made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., while its Pixel phones are assembled by Foxconn and Compal Electronics.

The company also has close relations with Quanta Computer, which helps Google build its Chromebook and data center servers.

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