Baidu aggressively investing in mobile and the cloud as it tops 80m daily mobile search users

Baidu aggressively investing in mobile and the cloud as it tops 80m daily mobile search users

Chinese search leader Baidu is still in the midst of its transition to mobile, but the company is seeing significant adoption of its mobile search product with over 80 million daily active users.

The company announced on Monday the results of its billion-dollar fourth quarter ahead of an earnings conference call with CEO Robin Li where he highlighted the company’s ongoing commitment to the mobile space.

“The mobile and cloud-based products we are developing are our best and most creative work to date,” he said, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha.

The 80 million daily active user figure includes users of its search app, as well as searches performed in mobile browsers and other Baidu products like Maps.

Baidu does say that it’s still in a the “early stages of development” for its mobile search product, but it’s already gained a significant amount of traction. The company also believes it has the top Maps app in China with over 3.5 million daily active users and 50% sequential growth in app installations in the fourth quarter. Baidu is looking to expand its maps service into a full-blown LBS product, and it spun off the division last October.

During Monday’s call, Li outlined Baidu’s two-pronged strategy for mobile. First priority for the company is its mobile search, and the company has been moving quickly to add new features to it. In his view, mobile search is roughly where desktop search was in 1999.

The second area of attack for Baidu is building a mobile ecosystem. It is specifically focused on building tools to attract developers to its service. At its developer conference last fall, the company has described those tools as weapons. The company recently released a few new APIs for music and facial recognition during a joint mobile hackathon with Ford.

Baidu’s mobile search traffic has yet to overtake that of desktop, but Li did say that he expects it to happen “sooner rather than later.”

Monetization for Internet companies is for the most part a step behind user adoption, and Baidu’s situation is no exception. CFO Jennifer Li indicated that the company’s mobile monetization is still in its “very early stage.” One of its challenges is in educating advertisers how to tailor their campaigns for mobile.

“There is still a lot of work that we need to do to make [mobile search] a better channel for our advertisers and customers.”

Looking ahead, Baidu could pursue a merger and acquisition strategy to build out its mobile services. It recently raised $1.5 billion for a strategic war chest that could be used for M&A activity. Baidu’s CFO said on Tuesday that the company’s M&A efforts will fall in line with its overall mobile-first strategy for this year, though they will be supplemental, rather than core, tactics.

“As the whole industry is looking into mobile, I think it’s great to have the resources and ability and see the kind of innovative efforts in the industry that if Baidu can invest in.”

Rival Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Sina have both restructured their respective companies to better focus on the mobile industry this year, so things are heating up. Users are piling on at a rapid rate, but the first company to solve the monetization issue will have an important advantage over its competitors.

Image credit: Liu Jin / AFP / Getty Images

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