Baidu boosts its mobile search tools with cloud-based apps

Mobile users to access 'lite apps' through the company's search program on smartphones

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 3:49am

Baidu, owner of the mainland's largest search engine, is expanding with mobile applications that do not need to be downloaded, as it competes with Tencent for users in the world's biggest smartphone market.

Mobile users could access "lite apps" for information on transport, travel and entertainment through Baidu's search program on smartphones, Li Mingyuan, a vice-president, said yesterday in Beijing.

Baidu was also offering mobile payment services for developers to commercialise their applications, he said.

The firm is trying to navigate a shift from desktop computing, where it manages 82 per cent of the mainland's searches, to mobile devices. It agreed last month to pay US$1.85 billion for the 91 Wireless third-party app store in its biggest announced acquisition, to capture the mainland's more than 464 million users who access the internet from mobile devices.

"We are pushing the development of China's internet ecosystem," Li said. "We hope by promoting 'lite' apps to help developers integrate mobile and cloud systems." Cloud-based applications reside on the internet and not on the user's device.

The firm's app store had had 69 million downloads every day as its open platform attracts 700,000 developers, chairman Robin Li said yesterday.

Baidu's mobile revenue was about 700 million yuan (HK$886 million) to 800 million yuan in the second quarter, chief financial officer Jennifer Li said last month. The firm had a market share "well above" 50 per cent in searches from mobile devices, she said.

"Baidu has been relatively fast in commercialising its mobile services," said Lucy Zhang, a Beijing-based analyst at internet consulting group IResearch. "It's trying to build a mobile cloud ecosystem to help developers build more mobile services on its platform."

The company is still actively looking for acquisition targets, as it expands in services such as online search and internet video.

Baidu reported net income of 2.64 billion yuan in the second quarter, beating analyst estimates. Revenue rose 39 per cent to 7.56 billion yuan.

The firm boosted its workforce by 2,100 people to 24,000 by the end of June through new hires and the purchase of PPStream for US$370 million in the June quarter.

China's online video business revenue is projected to increase to 16.2 billion yuan next year from 1.36 billion yuan in 2009, according to IResearch.