China became the world’s biggest mobile market in the final quarter of 2011, when device shipments to the country outnumbered those to the US for the first time, and Li acknowledges the significance of the mobile for the search giant.
Speaking on an earnings conference call following the company’s latest filing — which saw total revenues and profit increase by more than 80 percent year-on-year — Li is reported by Reuters as saying:
We do think mobile will become a very important channel to distribute our products and that has increasingly become true over the past quarter. And we think during the coming year, mobile will represent an ever larger percentage of our total traffic.
The CEO also admitted that, thus far, the company has allowed its mobile Web efforts to grow organically, but that it is set to chance as it looks to develop services for customers using phones:
In the past, we have not spent any resources in monetizing the mobile traffic. But starting from this year, we will do something to figure out how to better serve our customers on our mobile platform.
Baidu’s plan to monetise mobile comes after it stepped into the mobile operating system (OS) space last year when it launched Baidu Yi, which is heavily based on rival Google’s Android OS. While the company has launched initial devices, Li revealed that it is hoping to expand its partners to produce more devices.
Baidu dominates the Chinese search space, where it accounts for a reported 78 percent of industry-wide revenues, leading Google by some 60 percent. The US firm famously moved its search operations to Hong Kong, a country that its executive chairman Eric Schmidt describes as “the other China, which we like”, but the company continues to focus on China.
Baidu is rumoured to be moving into new international markets, with a report yesterday claiming that it is close to opening a Latin America office based in Brazilian city Sao Paulo, however the company declined to comment.