After the fake Apple Stores story, technology companies based in China continue to show how they think outside the box; with one of their flagship players, Baidu, having announced a new browser called Baidu Browser, that borrows a bit from Internet Explorer and a lot from Google's Chrome. However, as often is the case, it's a bit of a Frankenbot rather than an elegant solution.
Baidu Browser for a start works only on Windows (XP, Vista or Windows 7) which somehow betrays its roots; the last Microsoft browser to run on XP was Internet Explorer 8 which was launched back in March 2009. No Linux or Mac version is expected to be launched.
While it does offer something akin to an application store for web applications, it is, in its current state, inferior to what Google offers. It runs in a Webkit-based sandbox but most of the apps on offer are actually links to traditional websites rather than custom-built HTML5 websites.
There are however a few web apps like Baidu's own video-on-demand site Qiyi which seems to work well and provides a taster of what to expect.
The main criticism though appears to be directed at the rendering/layout engine which powers the browser, which is Internet Explorer's own Trident, a move that some have suggested is needed for compatibility (Internet Explorer 6.0 is still has HUGE following in China with nearly 200 million (opens in new tab) users).
The end result is disastrous with a number of onscreen oddities, which could be linked to the fact that the browser is optimised for Chinese Han characters rather than Latin ones, which would go a long way to explaining things like improperly rendered apostrophes.
We have been able to download the latest version of the browser (Beta 1.2) after three attempts, but (opens in new tab) failed to install it altogether because our grasp of Chinese is very limited.
Baidu faces an uphill struggle to outfox the rest of the IE-based competition where the likes of 360 Secure browser (which has almost a fifth of the Chinese browser market), Tencent TT, Sogou and Maxthon are already established players.