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Baidu plunges into mobile: First China, then THE WORLD

Chinese search giant wants to rub Google's face in it

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Baidu rounded off a busy week on Friday with the Chinese search giant promising to ramp up its mobile search and social media offerings, after decent fourth quarter financials.

CEO Robin Li said on an earnings call that the firm would look to monetise its mobile traffic in order to maintain the strong momentum which saw it beat Wall Street estimates in the last quarter.

Revenues for the period stood at $710.9m, up 82.5 per cent year-on-year, while profits were $365m, up 80.2 per cent.

"We do think mobile will become a very important channel to distribute our products and that has increasingly become true over the past quarter. And we think during the coming year, mobile will represent an ever larger percentage of our total traffic," said Li, according to Reuters.

The firm is also planning to monetise its social media platforms and expand internationally, he added.

Gartner analyst Roger Sheng told The Register he expects to see Baidu partner with more hardware manufacturers to promote its mobile services. Dell launched a smartphone last year based on the Linux-powered Baidu Li platform.

“Baidu is attempting to get into this market. The hardware manufacturers and the service providers are trying to leverage brand loyalty and awareness, but Baidu is not a recognised brand for mobile just yet,” he added.

“In the future, Facebook, Baidu, Alibaba and others will get more involved in the market because the mobile internet will have more connections than the PC. Baidu needs more co-operation with hardware firms like ZTE and Lenovo to push its services.”

On the international front, news emerged from local Brazilian sources this week that the search giant was planning to set up a small outpost there ahead of it launching a Wikipedia-like service in the country.

However, Baidu is unlikely to trouble Google in Brazil – the US firm has nearly 90 per cent of the market – and it has not done tremendously well historically in its operations outside the People’s Republic.

It's a different matter in China, where Baidu benefited when Google effectively upped sticks and left in 2010, relocating its business to Hong Kong. However, despite its hissy fit, Google still has around 16-19 per cent of the Chinese market, depending on which statistics you trust, while Baidu has a little over three-quarters.

Baidu is currently constructing a new office said to be earmarked as an HQ for its mobile and international operations.

Also this week, the search giant launched the preview version of its browser software, imaginatively titled Baidu Browser 2.0, which features personalisation and other user interface enhancements. ®

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