Baidu targets Google with mobile search app

Top Chinese search engine Baidu.com has taken another swing at Google by launching a mobile service application it will pre-install on handsets, responding to fast growth in China's mobile search market.

Mobile phones pre-loaded with the Baidu Palm application should appear on the market soon as the company has already reached deals with handset makers, a Baidu representative said in an e-mail late Friday. The software is the "most important product in Baidu's mobile strategy," the company said in a statement announcing it last week.

Google and Baidu are racing to win users for their mobile versions in an outgrowth of their rivalry in online search. Baidu is China's Internet search leader, accounting for nearly 70 percent of online searches in China, compared to about 20 percent for Google, according to China IntelliConsulting. The companies have fought with rival products such as their free music download search services -- something offered by Google in China only -- and their focus on the mobile sector is growing.

The new Baidu application, now in beta, hooks users into its search, message board and question-and-answer online services. It also has a new quick-upload feature for pictures taken with a phone.

The product follows Baidu's announcement last month that it would start pre-loading its Internet search and other services on 3G handsets from local carrier China Unicom. China Telecom, another mobile network operator, also offers Baidu services. Like Google, Baidu has products such as online maps, a news search feature and a finance portal.

Google's main mobile search deal in China is with China Mobile, the world's largest carrier by subscribers, for which Google search powers an online music and application store.

Chinese mobile phone users performed over 270 million Web searches in the second quarter this year, more than twofold growth from a year earlier, according to local consultancy Analysys International. Baidu and Google each accounted for about 26 percent of those searches.

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