Baidu partners Dell for mobile push

China's search giant partners U.S. hardware maker to develop tablets and handsets following launch of its mobile operating system as it targets Apple and Lenovo, say reports.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

Chinese Internet giant Baidu revealed another piece of its mobile computing roadmap by announcing its partnership with U.S. hardware manufacturer Dell to develop tablets and handsets powered by its homebrewed Baidu Yi operating system (OS), according to reports.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Dell announced its partnership with Baidu in the mobile computing space although it declined to give a timeline for the launch of the devices. Local Chinese media, quoting sources, indicated that it may be as early as November, though.

"We have a partnership with Baidu and you know we have the Streak 5 tablet, so the partnership will be in that space," a Dell spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that both companies are also cooperating on the mobile handset arena.

Bloomberg confirmed that these handsets will be powered by the Chinese company's Android-based mobile operating system, Baidu Yi. In its report Tuesday, Theresa Shen, a China-based spokeswoman for Dell, said the Dell phones will use the search operator's Baidu Yi mobile platform.

A Dell spokesperson also verified that the company is partnering the Chinese search giant "for the mobile platform in China" in a separate e-mail statement to ZDNet Asia. He did not, however, state if the devices would be available only in China.

Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said in the Bloomberg report that Dell is among several mobile device makers that the company will be working with, but declined to confirm if the collaboration includes the Yi platform.

Baidu Yi was launched in Beijing last Friday, and it is built on top of Google's Android OS, according to the news agency. The difference between the two OSes lies in the prepackaged Baidu-developed apps such as Maps, Google Places-replicate Shen Bian and Ting, a digital music service.

This follows Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's launch of its own cloud-based mobile OS, Aliyun, this July.

Huawei, too, launched its Vision cloud phone powered by Android in August.

Analysts skeptical
Michael Clendenin, managing director of technology consultancy RedTech Advisors, told Reuters that the partnership is just a publicity stunt for Dell, who has "a lot of problems on the mobile and tablet front".

"I suspect this is just Dell…grasping at straws to get any kind of publicity that it can to make its product more attractive," he said. "Ultimately, in China, I still think it is Apple's game, still for the iPad and iPhone."

But Sandy Shen, a Shanghai-based research director with Gartner, added that Dell has got "nothing to lose" with this venture.

"They don't have a big mobile presence, so by partnering Baidu, they will probably get some momentum for their mobile products," she explained.

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