* Baidu platform to support development of apps
* To offer on mobile devices in future
* Part of increasingly crowded China mobile Internet space
* Baidu pushing to diversify from search
* Launches new homepage; CEO says negative impact on revenue
(Adds Sohu interview with CEO, detail)
By Melanie Lee
BEIJING, Sept 2 China's top search engine Baidu
Inc offered a glimpse of its upcoming mobile operating
system and launched a new mobile application platform on Friday
aimed at bolstering its presence in the increasingly competitive
mobile web market.
The platform, named Baidu Yi, will enable third-party
application developers to create apps such as games, maps and
other tools that they can distribute in a similar way to Apple
Inc's App store.
Baidu Yi is modelled on Google's Android mobile
operating system and will be rolled out to mobile devices in the
The company also launched its new homepage which will add
four features, including social networking functions.
However, Baidu CEO Robin Li was quoted as saying the new
homepage could have a negative impact on its revenue by
requiring users to register a Baidu account, reducing traffic on
the site. The new homepage, with more links and content, could
also affect loading speed.
"We don't know how negative it will be," Li said in an
interview with Internet portal SohuIT.
"No matter how big the loss would be, this represents the
future of the industry. If we don't do it, others might; if we
don't do it now, you might be forced to do it in the future;
instead of waiting for others to push you, we would rather take
Baidu currently has around 200 million registered users, Li
Baidu has built on its dominance of China's search market
significantly since Google's high-profile exit last year citing
hacking and censorship concerns, and now has an over 80 percent
Baidu's Nasdaq-listed shares are up nearly 50 percent so far
this year, giving it a market value of around $50 billion.
The company has also been aggressively diversifying into
e-commerce, online video and online travel to bolster growth and
An array of Chinese Internet firms and telco gear makers
have launched self-developed smartphones in order to gain a
foothold in a market still dominated by traditional handsets and
lower-end second-generation phones.
Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce firm, launched a
smartphone running its own mobile operating system in late July
that will feature cloud-based applications and Internet search.
Huawei Technologies similarly launched its cloud
computing smartphones in August, and Sina Corp recently
rolled out a line of smartphones catering to users of its
microblogging service Weibo.
(Additional reporting by Soo Ai Peng; Writing by Kazunori
Takada and Jason Subler; Editing by Lincoln Feast)