Last month we filed a report that said Baidu was going to release a new smartphone running their in-house operating system. The rumors said it would cost roughly $160 and have a 3.5 inch screen. According to Reuters, Baidu will indeed release a handset. They quote Wang Jing, Baidu’s Vice President of Engineering and Head of Mobile as saying: “We have a few partnerships coming up and will announce it in a week.” Said device will run “Baidu Cloud” which is a newer version of the “Baidu Yi” operating system that shipped on the Dell Streak Pro D43 late last year. That device had a 4.3 inch screen, and we’re not really sure about the pricing.
So who is Baidu and why are they entering the smartphone game? Think of this company like the Chinese version of Google. They started out as a search engine, but over time they developed various cloud services. Things like email, cloud storage, a music store, the list goes on and on. Now Google released Android not because they wanted to make any money from the OS, but because they wanted to create a platform that would promote their services. Baidu Yi, and now Baidu Cloud, is essentially Android, except with all of Google’s stripped out and replaced with their Baidu equivalents.
Does any of this actually matter to you? Yes and no. China is a huge market and it’s growing incredibly fast. The companies who create devices tailored for the locals are destined to succeed, while the companies who think they can get away with selling a European or American phone to the people of China will face some hardship. Nokia’s Q1 2012 financial results are the best example of that. They sold 62% fewer devices in China during the first three months of this year compared to the first three months of 2011.