Google is expanding its Ontario, Canada-based engineering operation, which has either developed or worked on most of the company’s recent mobile offerings, including Gmail for the iPad and Google Buzz. Steven Woods, the director of Google’s engineering operation in Waterloo, said in a recent interview that the unit has been expanding fairly rapidly over the past few months, and plans to continue that expansion for the foreseeable future. He wouldn’t say how much the workforce has grown, or how many employees the unit has now (one recent estimate put it at “several dozen”), but he did say that the team has expanded to the point that it will soon be moving to a larger building.
Google’s operation in the Ontario university town (also home to mobile giant Research In Motion) was the result, in part, of the 2006 acquisition of a small mobile company called Req Wireless. But Woods said that it also stemmed from the company’s desire to have a number of research and development centers in locations around the world to help encourage ideas and expertise from outside the usual hotspots in Silicon Valley. Woods — a University of Waterloo grad who moved to Silicon Valley and built a voice search company that was eventually acquired by AOL — said Google had noticed that it was hiring a disproportionate number of graduates from his alma mater (which is regularly among the top three sources for new Google employees).
The Waterloo division focuses on various aspects of Google’s mobile businesses, including app development and advertising, as well as development of the Chrome OS. There is one exception to the mobile focus, however: Woods said the Waterloo unit doesn’t have anything to do with Android, which is a special division of its own, run by Andy Rubin. However, the Waterloo team developed the new Gmail interface for the iPad, as well as a number of other recent offerings. And Woods said that his group is currently focusing most of its efforts on HTML5-related development, because it sees the open web standard as an effective way of developing new features for mobile.
Below is a short video clip of Woods explaining the genesis of the Waterloo operation and some of what it’s working on: