Talking tech since 2003

Exactly two months ago I talked about a new partnership that U.S.-based Microsoft Corporation teaming up with China-based search engine Baidu to provide English results in a move that many like myself thought would ultimately make Baidu a potentially solid competitor to Google; not only in China, but in the United States and other English-speaking countries as well.  Although we haven’t seen any competition from Baidu yet (two months really is a short amount of time) the sheer fact that Baidu was willing to team up with American companies to expand its reach really was intriguing.  Considering the number of users that the company already has in China, I for one believe that Baidu could go places really fast if they opted to compete with existing empires such as Google and Apple, and in all honesty I really cannot see why they wouldn’t.

This month, Baidu has made another somewhat interesting revelation; one that makes it all the more apparent that they’re willing to compete with existing entities on a global basis, bringing on American companies to help their widespread success become a reality.  Not only is the company in arrangements with U.S.-based Dell Inc to develop tablets and mobile handsets, as Reuters is reporting.  Now, I understand that the tablet industry is hot stuff right now and that everyone wants a piece of the action, but Baidu’s sudden move really does interest me quite a bit.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Baidu, essentially the Google of China, has recently announced the creation its own mobile operating system – dubbed “Baidu Yi” – which will inevitably be used to power the devices that Baidu and Dell will work to create.  The real kicker here, though, is the fact that the company’s operating system is going to be a forked and heavily modified version of the Android mobile OS that Google has been developing and refining for the last several years.

First and foremost, this is an awesome example that open-source software doesn’t have to chop away at the potential of competition in the mobile market, a concept that I discussed a couple of weeks ago.  Beyond that, though, it really is amazing what Baidu is doing.

Essentially, the company has grabbed the open source Android project, stripping out all of Google’s built-in applications.  With a basic operating system in hand the company has gone ahead and built up their entire front-end from the ground up, including a whole new set of applications to replace the Google-based ones that would normally ship with the device.  While it’s not uncommon for mobile companies such as HTC to highly modify the Android OS on their devices, what Baidu has done is very extreme as they’ve essentially taken Android and made it entirely their own.  Interesting stuff, right?

At this point it’s not incredibly clear if the modified OS will be able to run Android applications or not, but either way I’m glad welcome this new mobile OS into the market.  And of course, if Baidu and Dell do manage to become successful enough to compete with Google, I’m going to be laughing incredibly hard at the fact that Baidu managed to compete with Google using a product based on Google’s open source code.

Beyond the fact that the companies have partnered up, though, there really isn’t that much information on what is or will be going on.  Baidu has been incredibly tight-lipped, declining to comment on the recent developments, while a Dell spokesperson has been quoted as mentioning the “Streak 5 tablet” and saying that “the partnership will be in that space.”  For now, though, it appears that Baidu is staying within the China market, however with the global name recognition that Dell has it really wouldn’t surprise me to see the tablet become an international offering.

What do you think?  Will Baidu build success off of this new venture?  Will Dell’s involvement better their chances for success?  Let us know in the comments!

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