Reports in the Chinese media indicate that Baidu, the dominant search engine in China, may consider developing its own mobile operating system.
The development would be led by former Google China employees, who have defected to Baidu amid the censorship controversy between the Chinese government and Google.
There are very few details known at this point, but early reports seem to indicate that the OS will be open source. If so, this is clearly aimed to be a competitor to Google’s Android, which has been making significant progress in the Chinese market, even helped by the biggest Chinese mobile carriers.
As more and more Android handsets are due to be released in China, Baidu saw the need for a mobile OS that would assure its growth in mobile search. Because unlike in searches made from computers, where Baidu has an astonishing 70% market share in China, when it comes to mobile searches, Google and Baidu are tied at around 26% market share.
Baidu has been making efforts to diversify into markets other than search, with efforts being focused on e-commerce, online video and social networking. And now, it may add mobile operating systems to the list.
Also, online mapping may be another area to see fierce competition between Baidu and Google, although for that to happen, Google needs to first get a license. The Chinese government has recently stated that all companies that wish to operate mapping services have to get special approval. There was an initial list of companies that got it, but Google wasn’t among them.
If Baidu launches a mobile OS inspired by Android and developed by ex-Googlers, it may just prove Google’s point – that openness is the key to success in the mobile space.
Whether you’ll be able to do a Google search on a Baidu mobile OS-powered phone remains to be seen.
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