Baidu.com, Inc. (ADR)(NASDAQ:BIDU) , which runs China’s largest search engine, announced the launch of its own mobile Internet browser to compete with Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers.
The development is the most recent step by the company to gain a better hold of a still young, but rapidly expanding mobile Internet market.
According to Baidu, the browser will be 20 percent faster than its rivals and offer speedy download times and Baidu’s services and can run applications directly off the Internet.
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The company also said it would invest roughly 10 billion Yuan ($1.6 billion) in a new cloud computing centre to “gain stronger control over how Internet users in China access the web through smartphones.” It however declined to share details of the venture.
China had 538 million internet users at the end of July, up 11 per cent from a year earlier, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government-authorized industry group. The number of mobile internet users rose 22 per cent to 388 million, or more than 70 per cent of the total.
Baidu had 78.6 per cent of China's search market in the second quarter of this year, compared to Google with 15.7 per cent, according to Analysys International, a research firm.
As China's customers increasingly turn to smartphones to access the Internet, users have more often turned to other search engines as well as social networks to surf the web.
Baidu said it hoped to have handset makers pre-install its new browser on 80 per cent of smartphones sold in China by the 2012- end. Although a niche market, Baidu faces competition from rival Tencent Holdings, and UCWeb, a company that specializes in mobile browsers and holds a leading 28.9 per cent share of the market in the first quarter, according to Baidu statistics.