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China's Baidu builds new type of App Store

'Light App' framework loads web apps onto smartmobes

Screen shots of Baidu's new mobile OS

Chinese web giant Baidu has unveiled Light App – a new distribution model for mobile applications which could eventually help international developers to better promote their wares in the world’s biggest smartphone market.

Unveiled at the firm’s annual Baidu World event on Thursday, the new system was conceived as a way for users to access less popular applications without the need to download and install them.

At the launch, CEO Robin Li described today’s app store model as “fundamentally flawed”, claiming that 0.1 per cent of apps account for 70 per cent of all downloads.

As such, developers of less well-known titles usually find it difficult to push their way into that small leading pack.

Baidu’s answer is to get developers to build a kind of web app which will run on top of the firm’s new Light App platform.

When users want help with a particular task they’re able to consult a built-in Baidu search function which will present them with the apps which can help – accessible without the need for an install.

This latest initiative can be seen as another attempt by Baidu to establish a bigger footprint in China’s mobile internet and move beyond its search origins into content provision.

Its mobile search already has 130 million daily active users and, thanks to its recent $1.9bn acquisition of app store firm 91 Wireless Websoft, the Chinese web giant says it now distributes 69 million native apps daily through its online stores.

If successful, Light App could provide a handy distribution platform for international developers.

Although the developer page is only available in Chinese at the moment, Baidu has hinted that it’s looking to engage more fully with the dev community outside the Middle Kingdom.

It set the wheels in motion back in March with the launch of a basic English language version of its Cloud Developer Center (now known as Baidu Open Cloud).

“It is going to take up a lot of manpower and energy for us to bring in developers for different categories of apps as we expand the categories from content-focused to tools apps; it might be a while before we start working with foreign app developers on this,” a spokesperson told The Reg.

“But we will consider it in the future.” ®

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