Chinese Internet search giant Baidu Inc. is stepping into the mobile market – trying to reach agreements with smartphone makers that use Google’s Android operating system.
The Beijing-based company wants to embed a Baidu search box on phones headed for the Chinese market, according to company’s Chief Executive Robin Li, who stated that Baidu’s goal is to have “a search box very prominently on the phone’s screen.”
Of course, going after phones with the Google Android system simply makes the competition between Baidu and Google in China that much more intense, as both companies struggle to be top dog in the country. Baidu has an edge in that the Chinese government doesn’t seem to ‘have it in’ for them. Mr. Li said that his company is also talking with makers of other mobile operating systems and handsets that run their software, saying, “We are talking to quite a few big names.”
According to Beijing-based technology research firm Analysys International, Android phones accounted for only 0.4% of the 7.25 million smartphones sold in China in the last 3/4 of 2009. Baidu is obviously hoping to get ahead of the game, anticipating a huge rise in demand.
However, Android isn’t the only way to go; Analysys also states that Symbian-powered phones made up 72.1% of the smartphones sold in China in the final quarter of last year. The Symbian Foundation (managing the system is used on many phones made by Nokia Corp.) has announced they are creating a joint lab with Baidu to integrate Baidu search functions with Symbian.
Baidu is the dominant search engine in China , especially with recent events that had Google redirecting visitors to the Hong Kong site. According to Analysys, in the second quarter of 2010 Baidu’s share of China’s search market grew six percentage points to 70% – while Google’s share fell by about the same amount to 24%.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.
Li also mentioned the possibility of expansion beside the mobile phone market: “We’ll be open-minded. I think there are quite a few interesting companies outside of China,” Mr. Li said. “Maybe five to 10 years down the road, the international revenue will also become a very significant part of our business.”