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Baidu to be buying, doing more mobile applications
Publication Date : 07-03-2014
Baidu Inc., China's largest online search company, is working to develop new products that can replace the search engine to become its most recognised gateway in the mobile Internet era, said Robin Li, the company's chief executive officer.
Li didn't elaborate on the new products but said that last year Baidu spent about 4 billion yuan on research and development. Most of it, he said, was used to develop products that will be as vital to the mobile era as the search engine has been in the personal computer-based one.
"If we had only wanted to maintain our leading position in search, we would have spent only about 20 per cent of that amount on R&D," said the 45-old-year Li, who, with a net worth of US$12.1 billion, is ranked the third-richest man on the Chinese mainland, according to the latest world's billionaires list from Forbes.
Li shared his vision about innovation and the Internet in an interview with China Central Television on the sidelines of the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
He said his Beijing-based company's main competitor is the changing Internet landscape in China, where more than 500 million out of the roughly 600 million Internet users in the country have access to the Internet through mobile phones.
"In the PC era, the search engine was the sole gateway for people to find information on the Internet. But now the channels to gain access are diverse. People have various applications on their smartphones to meet different kinds of demands," he said.
In order to move quickly in the rapidly changing market, Baidu last August bought app store 91 Wireless for $1.9 billion and picked up 59 per cent of group-buying website Nuomi the same month. The company moved to gain full control of Nuomi earlier this year.
The US-listed company saw its investment pay off, as mobile accounted for more than 20 per cent of Baidu's total revenues in the fourth quarter of last year, the company said in an unaudited 2013 finance report released at the end of February. Apart from shifting to mobile, Li sees opportunities ahead because the Internet has revolutionized many traditional sectors, from retail to finance.
China's online shopping market has grown rapidly to become the world's largest. Many Internet companies, including Baidu, launched financial services last year to offer users better returns than typical bank deposits in a convenient format.
"I don't know much about finance," Li said. "What we do here is to use Internet thinking to improve the efficiency of traditional finance, to simplify purchasing procedures and give better user experience," he added.
Li said that in the future, there will be no dedicated Internet companies, "because every company will somehow embrace the Internet in some way".
Li's self-made Baidu has become involved in finance, online video, tourism and publishing. He said it will certainly expand into new sectors.
"With Internet thinking, there is a lot of room in terms of efficiency improvement in healthcare and education," he said.