Chinese search engine giant Baidu is considering developing and releasing a mobile phone operating system, according to Chinese media reports.
The effort would be led by former Google employees who defected to Baidu after Google defied the Chinese government by ending self-censorship of its search results. The report comes amid other Baidu moves to break into new areas as it seeks growth outside of search, such as e-commerce, online video, social networking, and even browsers.
Few people know details of Baidu's plans in the mobile operating system department, but reports said the company is working toward releasing an open source system.
If so, it would directly compete with Google's Android operating system. New Android handsets are being released quickly in China, and Baidu would like its own operating system to help give it an edge in the increasingly important mobile search market.
While Baidu dominates search in China, with a market share of 70%, the two companies are much closer in the mobile search department, with around a 26% market share each.
Online mapping was considered another area where the two might still butt heads, but it's still uncertain whether the Chinese government will issue Google a license. Its name did not appear on a list of first-round approvals released by China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. Any map provider that does not obtain a license by year end must shut down its service.
Along with Baidu's efforts to develop new products has come a hiring drive that included sending a recruiting team to Silicon Valley earlier this month.
It has already listed 500 different openings on its official website this year, compared to just 125 between September 2007 and 2009. It also plans to add another 200 engineers at its Shanghai office to help boost technology research.