Dell and China's Baidu launch new smartphone

Dell's Streak Pro uses Baidu's mobile platform which is localized for Chinese users

Dell and China's largest search engine Baidu unveiled on Tuesday a new smartphone that aims to help the companies expand their mobile businesses in the country.

The smartphone, called the Streak Pro, is the first handset that uses the "Baidu Yi" mobile platform, which is compatible with Android apps, but localized with products for Chinese users. The platform allows for easy access to Baidu's search, music, maps and other Internet services.

In terms of hardware, the Streak Pro features a Qualcomm 1.5 Ghz dual-core processor along with a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) touch screen with a 960 x 540 pixels resolution. The touch screen is built using the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. The smartphone has a thickness of 10.25 millimeters (0.4 inches).

The Streak Pro is targeted at business users and young "trendsetters", but Dell and Baidu did not disclose its pricing. The companies are in talks with distributors, and plan to launch the device before the Chinese New Year in late January.

Dell has been choosing to launch some of its newest mobile devices first in China. In July, the company launched a 10-inch Android tablet exclusively in the country, selling it at the time for 2999 yuan (US$466). Dell, however, will have to contend with the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Apple, which are the top smartphone vendors in the country.

Dell's president of Greater China, Michael Yang, said in a Tuesday media briefing that the country is fast becoming the world's largest smartphone market. The company partnered with Baidu on the product in order to offer a handset that would perfectly fit Chinese consumers' needs.

"Dell will choose to release more and more products for China, as its first place to launch in the world, because China is becoming an important market," Yang said. The company plans to launch the Streak Pro in other markets, but did not give a schedule for the launch, or disclose what operating system it will use.

Baidu, which dominates China's search market over Google, already has its Internet search bar pre-installed on many Android phones sold in China. The Baidu Yi platform, however, is meant to connect users to more company services, and includes 100GB of cloud storage to save files, photos, music for free over Baidu's servers.

Baidu's vice president Wang Jing refrained from calling Baidu Yi a new mobile OS, and told reporters it was based on the Linux operating system.

One of the main features included on Baidu Yi is the company's SmartBox Search, which not only queries terms on the Internet, but will also search for online music, mobile apps, and even the phone's own contacts and text messages.

Baidu Yi also debuts the company's own mobile browser, and offers access to Baidu's online music platform, called ting!, which has access to 500,000 songs for free download. Baidu is offering access to mobile apps through its own virtual store, and has signed agreements with the app stores of operators and other partners. More than 50,000 apps will be available through it.

The Chinese search giant is in talks with other handset vendors to use the Baidu Yi mobile platform, and is considering making it available on tablets, Wang said.

Baidu unveiled the new smartphone as other Chinese companies have also released their own mobile operating systems as a way to promote their services. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched its own Aliyun OS in July through a company subsidiary. The country has more than 900 million mobile phone users, according to government estimates.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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