Chinese search giant Baidu has set its sites on rivalling Google in China with the release of a ROM that takes Android-powered phones, replacing Google’s suite of services with its own.
Baidu unveiled its new smartphone push earlier this month, when it announced details of an Android-based cloud-centric operating system, ‘Baidu Cloud’, but it is now in the market to ‘take-over’ active Android phones in China. That’s a huge base of devices, as Android accounted for 68.4 percent of new smartphone sales in China during the final quarter of 2011.
The ROM has been built to accompany Baidu’s cloud services push, and it allows mobile owners to fully ‘Baiduize’ their phone, giving them a “richer, more social, more personalised experience”. The ROM provides access to a range of the Web giant’s services, which include Google-Drive like Wangpan, music, maps, apps and new photo album site Baidu Xiangce.
The ROM is available to download now but we understand that it will be officially announced next week. Currently it only supports the Google Nexus S but it will expand to cover selected Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) phones in time, according to the webpage.
Baidu hinted that it would expand its smartphone focus beyond the ‘forked’ Baidu Cloud release, perhaps even targeting iOS and Windows Phone, and the release of this ROM demonstrates the aggressive approach that the Web giant is adopting.
There’s no direct install to devices — which may affect its uptake — and it must be download to a PC and sideloaded to a device using a USB connection. Baidu says it will update the version every two weeks, with changes piped through to existing users via OTA (over the air) updates.
Separately, Apple is tipped to soon add Baidu’s search services to its iOS operating system. It’s a move that may affect the use of Google’s services on the iPhone and iPad in China.
We’ll have more details on the ROM when Baidu makes its announcement.