Baidu Readies Google Defense in China Mobile Arena

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Baidu.com is working with some of China's leading telephone network operators to ready new mobile search applications for the launch of 3G (third generation mobile telecommunications) services in China, an area Google has made plans to dominate.

The Chinese Internet search giant, which is already far more popular than Google among its home audience, is also already the leader in mobile search in China through data services it launched two and a half years ago via the nation's WAP (wireless access protocol) system. Users in China can access Baidu's WAP portal, wap.baidu.com, for a host of services, including Web search, news, mobile blogs, maps, images, a dictionary, and stock information.

Baidu is already working with China Mobile and China Netcom Group on new services for the launch of 3G in China next year, said Alan Zhang, business development leader at Baidu, at the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress.

He declined to elaborate on new applications in the works, but said the current WAP portal would be important to Baidu's 3G efforts.

The company will need its popularity to help fend off Google.

The U.S. search giant is making further inroads into mobile phones with the announcement of Android, a Linux-based open software platform for mobile phones, early this month. The company is working with global handset makers to create mobile phones around the software, which aims to make Web access via handsets easier.

Google also has its own mobile phone, search and other applications, such as access to news, maps and Gmail.

At the GSMA show in Macau, however, Google had "nothing special to announce for 3G" in China, said Emmanuel Sauquet, director of wireless business development for Asia and Latin America at Google.

"We are increasing market share in China," he said, referring to the desktop Internet side of its business, not mobile.

Some market researchers say Baidu is extending its lead over Google in China.

According to a report by China Intelli Consulting (CIC) in September, Baidu held 69.5 percent of the search market in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, up 7.6 percentage points over last year. Google's share fell 1.1 percentage points to 23 percent.

China is an important battleground in mobile phones. There were 523.3 million mobile phone subscribers in China as of the end of September, according to the Ministry of Information Industry.That's over twice as many than the U.S. and far more than India, which had 209.8 million mobile subscribers at the end of September, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

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