Baidu strengthens mobile offering
Updated: 2012-09-04 09:19
By Chen Limin (China Daily)
Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine, has announced a series of moves to strengthen its position in the mobile search sector, and gain ground on its competitors.
The company, dominant in the Chinese desktop search market, said it has upgraded the speed of its Internet browser for mobile devices running Google Inc's Android system to boost its mobile search business.
The efforts come amid intense competition from rivals, including newcomer Qihoo 360 Technology Co, a popular Web browser company that released its own search engine last month.
Baidu will provide seven cloud-based services for application developers, it said on Monday. The services, including data storage and analysis, will allow developers to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Industry analysts said the moves aimed to increase the number of applications and services found on Baidu and as a result increase user loyalty, especially in the mobile search sector.
Speaking at its annual developer conference in Beijing, Li Mingyuan, general manager of Baidu's mobile and cloud computing division, said: "In the past we studied what users needed, and now we are studying what application developers need."
Hong Bo, a Beijing-based IT critic who follows the industry, said the more mobile applications are developed based on Baidu's services and distributed to users through Baidu's search results and application markets, the more users are likely to use Baidu on their mobile devices.
Baidu controlled 78.6 percent of China's search market by revenue in the second quarter, compared with Google's 15.7 percent share, according to domestic researcher Analysys International.
However, in the mobile search sector, it is far from dominant, with a 35 percent slice of mobile search traffic in the fourth quarter.
The new version of the Internet browser being released by Baidu for mobile devices running Google's Android operating system will allow users to play Web games and watch videos without installing additional software.
The company hopes the browser, together with Baidu's other mobile products such as its mobile operating system and cheap smartphones launched with partners, will form the core of what will eventually become a source of revenue.
The company's dominance in the market is under challenge particularly from Qihoo, with which Baidu has been in conflict since late last month.
Baidu started to redirect search traffic coming from Qihoo to its own home page on Aug 28 after Qihoo grabbed results from other Web search engines to create its own. Qihoo quickly responded by leading all Baidu-related search requests to cached pages.
The conflict between the two has become a major industry topic.
Wang Xiaochuan, chief executive of Sogou.com, a search engine under portal Sohu.com Inc, said on his micro blog on Sunday that officials from Ministry of Industry and Information Technology have already asked for his opinions on the conflict.
It is expected that the industry watchdog could intervene and halt the growing tussle between the two, as it did in 2010 to douse a similar spat between Qihoo and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Wang Zhan, vice-president of Baidu, declined to comment on the issue but said the entry of newcomers "doesn't have an impact on Baidu".