The Register reports that Baidu, the dominant Chinese search engine, has launched a mobile operating system of its own. It’s called Baidu Yi and is based on Android, but leaves out Google search and implants their own instead. It also has “Chrome-alike browser” and comes with Baidu-created web apps plus their mapping, cloud synch and music download services. The software is now featured on Baidu’s homepage. This may not be good news for Google.
Remember that Baidu recently partnered with Microsoft to provide Bing-powered English search results for their search engine in China. 9to5Google reported in June that Baidu might want to leverage Android to limit Google’s appeal in the country and further reduce Mountain View’s share of China’s search-based revenue. In January 2010 Baidu’s search-based advertising revenue share was at 63 percent versus Google’s 33 percent. The site was valued at $15 billion and enjoyed 300 million visitors.
Baidu isn’t alone in Android forking. Last week, TechCrunch reported that Amazon too will use a heavily customized Android version to power its upcoming mobile devices. Author MG Siegler saw prototypes and said “it looks nothing like the Android you’re used to seeing”, adding:
Google’s Android Market is nowhere to be found. In fact, no Google app is anywhere to be found. This is Android fully forked. My understanding is that the Kindle OS was built on top of some version of Android prior to 2.2. And Amazon will keep building on top of that of that over time. In other words, this won’t be getting “Honeycomb” or “Ice Cream Sandwich” — or if it does, users will never know it because that will only be the underpinnings of the OS. Any visual changes will be all Amazon.
Whether or not the Baidu-Bing partnership might affect the Chinese mobile landscape is up for the debate. The very fact that Baidu Yi does not rely on Google search and apps is clearly a precautionary maneuver to further limit Google’s reach in China.