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March 29, 2017

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Baidu launches Android-based mobile platform

BEIJING--China's top Internet search engine firm Baidu Inc. has moved to strengthen its position in the mobile Internet era by launching a new mobile application system on Friday to provide more mobile services.

The "Yi Platform," which is based on Google Inc.'s Android mobile operating system, can assist third-party software developers in creating applications such as games, music and book tools that they can distribute through the platform.

"Yi will lower the cost, share users and increase traffic for developers," Xu Yingchun, executive director of Baidu, said at the annual Baidu Technology Innovation Conference. The service will also facilitate mobile phone manufacturers, he added.

Baidu plans to cooperate with cell phone makers and produce tailored products with the platform, which will add the company's cloud-computing services to handsets.

Rumors had been rife that Baidu was about to launch a mobile operating system, similar to Google's Android and Microsoft Corp's windows system.

"Robin Li (Baidu's CEO) trod a cautious path for Baidu when he started exploring the mobile Internet field," said Li Yi, secretary-general of the China Mobile Internet Industry Alliance. He said he felt disappointed that Baidu had not made a bolder move by launching a new mobile operating system.

"Compared with Alibaba, Baidu has been left behind," Li added, referring to Alibaba Group, which launched its first smart phone on July 28, using an internally developed operating system known as Aliyun. The handset provides cloud-based services, with 100-gigabyte storage for each user.

However, on Friday, Wang Jin, Baidu's vice president, told Dow Jones Newswires that the company is not ruling out the possibility of eventually developing its own operating system.

Other Chinese Internet and telecommunications equipment makers have launched self-developed smart phones to take advantage of the mobile Internet era.

In addition to Alibaba, the startup company Xiaomi Corp., which was founded by the Chinese Internet guru Lei Jun, released a smart phone priced at 1,999 yuan (US$313) in August. The Xiaomi mobile phone is known for its high-end performance and extremely low price.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. launched its first mobile phone offering cloud-based services in early August, and Sina Corp. rolled out a line of smart phones catering to those using its microblogging service Weibo.

"Baidu should be concerned when smart phones become more popular. The company is a formidable player in the PC era in China, but it may lose its position when everyone starts to use Google's search engine on their mobile phones, because Android is the major mobile platform," Li said.

Baidu also presented its new homepage design on Friday, as CEO Robin Li said he wanted to reduce the effort users expend when searching for results.

"In the past, we provided links through which users can get the information they want; now we are demonstrating useful information and applications on Baidu's homepage, and every user can create a personalized homepage," Li said.

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