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Baidu offers English-speaking devs chance to crack China

Fortune and glory await in world's largest smartphone market

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Chinese search giant Baidu is stepping up efforts to engage with the international developer community with a new English language web site that might just help mobile app devs outside the Great Firewall crack the huge domestic market in the People’s Republic.

The Baidu Cloud Developer Center is for the time being limited to introductory information on Baidu’s developer tools and relevant industry news, but will in time feature all sorts of resources designed to support developers’ efforts to monetise their Android apps.

These will include free access to Baidu APIs including maps, location-based services and community sites; help with transcoding to ensure apps work across platforms; “huge amounts” of free cloud storage, which can be passed onto users; free testing of apps on different Android versions and screen sizes; and the ability to upload finished apps to the Baidu Mobile App Center.

Baidu first announced the developer support capabilities to the local community at its Baidu World conference last September.

“We see no reason that this shouldn't be on offer to all developers. Language is the only real hurdle,” international comms director, Kaiser Kuo, told The Reg.

“We want to enable innovative app developers to sell into China—something that Android developers aren't able to do very easily right now. So we're working on documentation to help. It's really pretty straightforward.”

It’s a two-way street, of course, and Baidu’s engagement with the international developer community can also be seen in the context of its efforts to grow its mobile ecosystem to combat slowing revenue growth.

It launched a mobile browser last year and CEO Robin Li said on an earnings call in October that “there will be a transition period lasting a couple of years before the mobile monetisation gap will close”.

China already lays claim to the biggest smartphone market in the world, even though the majority of its users still use 2G feature phones. between the size of the current smartphone-carrying population and the likelihood of future upgrades, China therefore represents both a huge opportunity and a challenge for web firms like Baidu, and to an extent Alibaba, trying to expand their operations into this space.

One loser from this trend is Google, which is largely excluded from the Android party in China by manufacturers keen to localise on-mobe mobile services, as well as periodic government blocks on Google sites including the official Google Play store. ®

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