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This article was published on September 3, 2012

Baidu, China’s Google, jumps on mobile, launches speedy Android browser

Baidu, China’s Google, jumps on mobile, launches speedy Android browser
Josh Ong
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Josh Ong

Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].

Baidu, the dominant leader in China’s search market, has leapt on to Android with a new browser for the Google-owned mobile OS. The browser features a new HTML5 and Javascript engine that the company says is fast enough to compete on the international stage against rival offerings from Google and Opera.

The Beijing-based company announced the browser, which is dubbed Baidu Explorer in English, at its annual Baidu World forum. The product has been in development since 2010, it says, and it is available to download (here) with both Chinese and English versions. It is claimed that the new browser runs 20 percent faster than the competition, on average.

The company expects the browser to perform well in China — where it holds around 80 percent of the domestic search market — but it is also taking steps to push it out internationally and, to that end, it has signed a deal with France Telecom’s Orange operator in Egypt to distribute the browser to its subscribers.

Baidu’s search services are being integrated into Apple’s upcoming iOS 6 in China and its browser will give it another firm footprint on mobile.

The Baidu Explorer scored an impressive 482 out of 500 on the HTML5 test, compared to 371 on mobile Chrome, 349 for Firefox and 367 from Opera, according to tests performed by Baidu. For further comparison, a MacBook Pro running Chrome 21 on Mac OS X Lion scored 437 and Mobile Safari on an iPhone 4S scored 324.

Additional benchmarks provided by the company show that the new browser also beats out its rivals on Javascript tests, such as v8benchmark and Sunspider, and it had the top score on a WebGL test.

The T5 engine provides a significant boost for Baidu’s browser. When the engine was turned off, Baidu Explorer scored just 276 on the HTML5 test. T5 (the T stands for Taikonaut, or Chinese astronauts, and the 5 refers to HTML5) also integrates WebSocket and Web notification technologies and can provide developers access to some hardware functions, such as a webcam.

Other core features of the browser include multi-task rendering, intelligent Chinese-language voice search and access to location-based services.

As is to be expected, Baidu has integrated its browser with its search service. The home page of the application features a Baidu search bar and shake-to-display search trends and hot topics.

Baidu, which posted $859 million in revenue last quarter, is also building its browsing technology into its search application on the Google market. It has set its sights high with the launch, with goals to have its Baidu search and/or browser software pre-installed on 80 percent of Chinese Android phone shipments by the end of the year.

In the domestic arena, the new browser will likely take share from Chinese mobile browser UCWeb and Opera. Baidu has partnered with UCWeb for years, giving the company a share of revenue from searches made through its browser, in fact it was even reported to be considering an investment in the firm. However, a Baidu spokesperson recently downplayed the new rivalry, recently telling reporters that its relationship with UCWeb is “still good”.

Baidu’s long-term goal is to derive more than half of its revenue outside of China by the year 2020. The company recently made forays into Southeast Asia with a new research office and has also quietly entered Brazil.

Even as it’s entering the mobile browser space, Baidu is fighting off an assault on its bread-and-butter search business, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of the Chinese market. Qihoo 360 launched a search engine last month and picked up an estimated 10 percent market share, passing Google in its initial bump. Since then, the rivalry between the two companies has gotten tense, with both sides moving to block each other’s services.

➤ Baidu Explorer for Android

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