Dell partners with China's Baidu to launch smartphone

Baidu recently announced a set of developer tools that analysts said could be the beginnings of a mobile OS

Dell has partnered with China's largest search engine Baidu to launch a smartphone, in a move that could help both companies tap the country's growing mobile phone market.

A Dell spokeswoman said on Tuesday the two companies were developing a smartphone, but declined to offer details and a launch date.

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News of the partnership comes days after the Chinese search engine launched a suite of Android-based tools called Yi to help developers create mobile apps integrated with Baidu's existing products, including the company's music, e-reading and mapping services.

Baidu, however, appears to be ready to turn its Yi platform into an Android-based mobile operating system featuring a collection of company apps, according to analysts. On Friday, Baidu's CEO Robin Li reportedly told the Chinese media that the company had reached an agreement with an international handset vendor to launch a phone installed with the Yi platform.

Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo, however, said the company had no announcement about it launching a Baidu-branded phone using the Yi platform.

Baidu dominates China's search engine market, with an 80 percent share of all user Internet searches, according to CNZZ.com, an analytical Web research site. The company's search engine is also installed in a number of mobile phones. In April, the company reported that its search engine had been installed on 80 percent of China's Android phones.

"Currently in China, all the top Internet firms are trying to expand into the mobile Internet market," said Shen Sui, an analyst with consultancy group iResearch. "They all want to solidify their place and grow their market share."

Dell, best known as a PC vendor, sold its first-ever smartphone in 2009, launching it in China and Brazil. The device ran a modified version of the Android operating system. The company has gone on to release other smartphones using Windows Phone 7 and Android in different markets.

China has the world's largest mobile phone market, with more than 900 million users, according to government statistics. About 95 million smartphones are projected to be sold in the country this year, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

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