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Chinese search giant Baidu unveils new mobile browser

Chinese search giant Baidu is launching a full-fledged expansion into the country’s rapidly growing mobile Internet market with its own mobile browser and a new cloud computing centre, as it faces search competition from upstarts like Qihoo 360.

At the company’s annual Baidu World Forum developer conference in Beijing, Baidu mobile and cloud computing manager Li Mingyuan unveiled a browser designed to help the company penetrate China’s booming mobile market, soon after new figures revealed some 388 million people in China access the Internet from mobile devices - more than the number of people who go online using PCs.

The firm has said its Baidu Mobile Browser clocks in at speeds 20 per cent faster than similar offerings from competitors like Google’s default Android browser Chrome, Opera, and Apple’s Safari. According to its own benchmarks, the Baidu Mobile Browser scored 482 out of 500 on the HTML5 test, with mobile Chrome, Opera, and Safari lagging behind at 371, 367, and 324, respectively.

The browser, which is currently available for download in Chinese and English for Windows Phone and Android 2.2, will be able to handle some 100,000 Web applications without needing to install more software, ostensibly allowing users to turn their handsets into gaming devices without eating up memory, the company said.

The widespread adoption of its browser would help Baidu funnel even more traffic towards its core search business, as the forthcoming launch of iOS 6 in China is expected to integrate Baidu as the default search engine. The company accounts for some 80 per cent of China’s search traffic, a figure that could grow in the coming months. Baidu hopes to have its browser bundled with three out of four Android devices sold in China by the end of the year, a move that could be a significant boon given the mobile operating system’s growing popularity.

Baidu also announced plans to invest 10 billion yuan (£993,300,000) into building a cloud computing centre. Speaking at the conference, CEO Robin Li said the development of a cloud facility is in line with what is now the era of cloud computing.

On the longer term, the company hopes to grow its non-Chinese revenue to represent half of its income by 2020. It has thus far inked an agreement with operator in Egypt, and has moved into Brazil and Southeast Asia, with more global deals likely to come soon.