Baidu shows China pushing forward mobile, cloud, maps and apps

There is little doubt where the gravity of innovation is. A glut of product announcements from portal and search giant Baidu, which is hosting its annual Baidu World event, shows China has seized upon western ideas and is taking them forward…

Cloud: big spending, more space

Baidu on Monday said it will spend 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) to set up its cloud computing centre, Reuters reports CFO Jennifer Li as saying. The firm launched its Baidu WangPan (“web disk”) in March, with 15Gb  free – more than DropBox’s 2Gb. This is a significant commitment to making cloud-based file storage available in a country that has fast seen an explosion in smartphone connections now overtake the number of desktop internet users.

Mobile browser: moving web apps forward

China’s fertile Android market is already host to plenty of alternative mobile web browsers, like the popular UC. In the ensuing innovation battle, Baidu on Monday upgraded its own to major on speed and web apps. The upgrade apparently renders HTML5 faster than anything else on the market, and lets users download web apps as though they were native apps. Via TechInAsia. Together, that is a significant leg-up to the web app community.

Maps: A new perspective

Google Maps has come a long way, with satellite, StreetView and other map views – but it’s never done Sim City-style maps. Baidu on Monday introduced a fourth iteration of its Baidu Maps that includes cute and colourful, isometric 3D views of cities and their buildings, in remarkable detail. The views bring a new clarity – and a new joy – to finding city routes. TechInAsia: “At full zoom, you can make out Mao’s portrait very clearly atop Tian’anmen, or see the cherry trees in bloom outside a hall in Shanghai.”

Mobile operating system: over-the-top

In China, internet brands, mobile carriers and others are dining out on Android, customising it to build their own huge mobile businesses. Baidu is the latest to rebadge Android (in this case, 4.0; Ice Cream Sandwich) for its own mobile OS, Baidu Cloud. The latest handset, TCL S710, was released last week. The new name suggests a unification of Baidu’s cloud-based services like Ting (music) and WangPan (storage), TechInAsia writes. Nevermind Apple-vs-Samsung – in China, the Android genie is really out of the bottle.