Baidu (NSDQ: BIDU), the search-portal provider and “Google (NSDQ: GOOG) of China,” has made a key move into the world of mobile today: it is launching its own app store, to be called “Baidu Yi,” which will be available on Google’s Android OS. The move comes after months of speculation about whether the company would launch its own mobile operating system.
The move is yet another sign of how China’s tech players want to play a central role in the country’s boom in mobile usage: they are banking on the idea that consumers would prefer homegrown mobile services and devices rather than rely only on products imported from abroad.
One of Baidu’s biggest rivals in China, Alibaba, announced in July a cloud-based mobile platform of its own, to be called Allyun OS, which would run on its own devices.
Other Chinese mobile developments have included Sina (NSDQ: SINA) and HTC launching a new Android-based smartphone, the Weike, which features a hotkey to Weibo, Sina’s microblogging service. This device is a remake of the HTC Salsa, sold outside of China with a direct key for Facebook.
A report in Reuters seems to indicate that Baidu Yi will have its own SDK and approval process outside of the one that exists on the Android Market app store.
Developers will be able to create apps for games and other services which will then be distributed and promoted by Baidu.
Android has spawned a number of other “app stores” from companies looking to make more headway into the mobile world. One of the most high-profile has been the app store launched by Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), seen by many as a precursor to the online giant moving into more mobile devices like tablets.
The market for apps in China is a growing business. At the end of July figures released by the Ministry of Information Industry noted that currently there are 100 million mobile app users in the country — representing growth of more than 250 percent over the year before.
What’s perhaps more significant for Baidu is that the Chinese market for apps is still a wide-open game. Figures from analysts at iResearch earlier in the year showed Nokia (NYSE: NOK) to have a commanding lead in the Chinese market for app stores, but second up was the M-Market from China Mobile.
That indicates there is definitely interest from consumers for app stores run by different players like Baidu — not just those running the platforms.