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Chinese Search Giant Baidu Launches Smartphone with Forked Android Version

Chinese Search Giant Baidu Launches Smartphone with Forked Android Version

Dell and Baidu, the Chinese search giant with over 80% marketshare in its home-country, unveiled the Streak Pro on Tuesday (via Computerworld). The device has a 4.3″ AMOLED screen with 960×540 resolution and packs a 1.5 GHz dualcore Qualcomm processor. Most notably, however, is the operating system it runs: a forked Android version dubbed Baidu Yi, which replaces Google’s services with those of Baidu.

This is similar to the Kindle Fire by Amazon, which also runs a completely customized version of Android that comes without any of the closed-source Google apps and instead integrates heavily with Amazon’s own services. So far, while Android tablets in general haven’t been particularly well received in the marketplace, the Kindle Fire has sold over one million units for three weeks in a row, probably becoming the best-selling Android tablet. The cheap price of only $199 is no doubt the main reason for its success, but Amazon’s strong entertainment ecosystem consisting of movie and music stores, which rivals Apple’s iTunes Store and easily surpasses any of Google’s offerings in that regard, is also a distinct advantage over competing Android tablets.

The same could apply to the Chinese smartphone market.

Most Chinese customers don’t use Google’s online services, especially since they’re often blocked by the Great Firewall, so carriers have long been replacing them with custom Android versions that include their own services like alternative marketplaces. With Baidu’s massive reach, it could enjoy the same kind of success as that of the Kindle Fire: becoming the most popular Android device in its market through a stronger ecosystem, but completely bypassing Google.

All of this only furthers Android’s fragmentation issues, without benefitting Google at all. It remains to be seen inhowfar this will affect Android’s long-term prospects, especially with developers, who, despite it’s faster growing marketshare, are still reluctant to put Android over iOS when developing new apps.

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