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Intel sets up joint lab with China's Baidu for mobile apps

Intel is hoping to get more Chinese developers to back its products by forming a new joint innovation lab with the nation’s largest search engine Baidu.

The lab is part of an agreement the two companies signed on Thursday that will focus on developing software for China’s mobile Internet market. Developers in the country will have access to Intel-powered products, including PCs, tablets and mobile devices, to test and port software for Baidu and Intel platforms.

“If you are a developer, you will now have more choices of platform, and more opportunities in business,” said Christos Georgiopoulos, Intel general manager for developer relations.

The companies did not, however, disclose how much was being invested in the new lab.

Intel is investing in the lab as China has become the world’s largest market for PC and smartphones. But the company’s presence in tablets and handsets is still small. Instead, power-efficient chips from its rival ARM Holdings are powering many of today’s popular products, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and most Android devices.

The chip maker is, however, steadily delivering new chips for use by Chinese vendors. PC maker Lenovo earlier this year unveiled its K900 smartphone, which is designed with Intel’s new “Clover Trail+” processor. Chinese handset maker ZTE is also using the same processor in its latest smartphone, called the ZTE Geek.

To help Chinese developers design cutting-edge software, Intel will also make available software tools to them. The company hopes this will help pave the way for Chinese apps designed with voice-command features, along with facial-recognition, Georgiopoulos said.

Baidu and Intel intend to keep the partnership limited to software and hardware integration, and will not include joint smartphone development, said Li Ming Yuan, Baidu general manager for mobile and cloud. In 2011, the Chinese search giant launched its own Android-based mobile platform, now called Baidu Cloud, which came loaded with integrated company services. The platform has yet to be widely adopted in China, and only comes pre-installed on six smartphone models.

With the partnership, Baidu wants developers to design mobile apps around its search and mapping products. The company is aiming to become a destination for mobile services, and last year said it would invest more than US$1.6 billion to build a new cloud computing center.

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