Baidu launches free PC maintenance, antivirus tool

The recent product launches put the Chinese search giant in direct competition with Qihoo 360, which currently dominates the free computer maintenance and antivirus software market in China.

Baidu on Thursday launched a free computer maintenance software, Baidu Guard, just two days after the Chinese search giant introduced a free antivirus software--called Baidu Antivirus--on June 18.

The two launches indicate Baidu has officially initiated competition with Qihoo 360 in the Internet security sector, according to Sina News report Friday.

The market has long speculated Baidu was planning to enter the market and offer free Internet security tools after it established a security project in 2011 and purchased a local IT security company in 2012.

Currently, Qihoo 360's market shares in computer maintenance software and antivirus software both exceed 50 percent in China, with over 300 million users in each market segment, according to the Sina report.

On Tuesday, Baidu availed its antivirus software for download after running two months of public tests. The new product was jointly launched by the Chinese company and Kaspersky, where Baidu offers cloud computing support while Kaspersky maintains professional antivirus engine. The software will be offered free of charge permanently, according to Baidu.

Baidu Guard is touted to protect computers, using cloud-based security technology to remove Trojans, fix computer bugs, as well as provide simultaneous real-time protection and other useful functions including plug-in cleaning and IE repairing. These functions are identical to those provided by the existing security product by Qihoo 360.

Tensions between Baidu and Qihoo 360 escalated in August last year after the latter launched a search engine --the core business of Baidu, which currently dominates with over 80 percent of China's search market share, following the exit of Google.  

This May, Qihoo 360 teamed up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to launch, an online shopping search engine which rivals similar products by Baidu. As Qihoo 360 runs a popular browser in the country, which defaults to its own search engine , its market shares among search engines have reached almost 10 percent within a short period after the launch.