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China’s Baidu enters mobile browser fight

China’s dominant search engine Baidu Inc rolled out a mobile browser on Monday to help secure its share in a mobile Internet market that surpasses the US population in size and to fend off smaller rivals such as Qihoo 360 Technology Co.

In China, the number of users who access the Internet from mobile phones has risen to 388 million, according to a government report in July, outstripping the number of users who access it from a desktop computer for the first time.

The Baidu Mobile Browser, which will compete with UCWeb Inc’s UC Browser, Google Inc’s Chrome and default Android browser, and Apple Inc’s Safari, is about 20 per cent faster than its rivals based on internal tests, Li Mingyuan, Baidu’s general manager of mobile and cloud computing, told reporters on Friday at a pre-launch briefing.

Baidu’s mobile browser also allows users to access a plethora of web-based mobile applications (apps) and run high-definition video through the browser without having to download apps or supporting software.

The browser, together with Baidu’s other mobile products such as its mobile operating system and cheap smartphones launched with partners, forms the core of what Baidu hopes will eventually become a source of revenue.

“Monetizing mobile is hugely important for Baidu,” said Michael Clendenin, managing director of RedTech Advisors, who added that the drive to monetize would be a medium-term concern for Baidu as its advertising clients still need to create mobile-friendly websites.

The shift to mobile could pose problems for Baidu if it can’t find a way to make money from search traffic. Baidu currently makes the bulk of its revenue from users searching from laptops and desktops.

Baidu’s goal is for 80 per cent of China’s Android handsets to have downloaded the Baidu Mobile Browser by the end of 2012, Li said.

The Baidu Mobile Browser also comes as Baidu is fending off threats on its home turf. Anti-virus software firm Qihoo 360 Technology’s entry last month into search caused Baidu’s shares to tumble 17 per cent to date.

Baidu is also moving into cloud computing, a term used to describe data storage or processing on the Web.

Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Li said on Monday the firm will invest more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) to set up its cloud computing centre.

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Google asked to censor online content 225 times

NEW YORK: Internet giant Google has said it has logged 255 instances of India asking for online content censorship, marking a sharp rise of 49% in the second half of last year.

Google said India’s request formed part of 1,000 demands from governments around the world in the second half of last year to take down items such as YouTube videos and search listings, and it complied with them more than half the time.

India’s objections ranged from blockage of 133 YouTube videos, including 10 made on national security considerations and 77 on defamation, besides 26 web searches and 49 blogs, Google said in its report on Sunday.

Google said political comments were a prime target as the number of requests for the company to remove content from the reach of Internet users jumped manifold.

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New sensor-based search engine to be developed

LONDON: A new project to develop a search engine which will draw its results from sensors located in the physical world is being undertaken by computer scientists at the University of Glasgow.

As the internet continues to expand, public access to net-connected sensors such as cameras and microphone arrays is increasing.

The European-funded project, known as SMART, for “Search engine for Multimedia Environment generated content”, aims to develop and implement a system to allow internet users to search and analyse data from these sensors, a university release said.

By matching search queries with information from sensors and cross-referencing data from social networks such as Twitter, users will be able to receive detailed responses to questions such as “What part of the city hosts live music events which my friends have been to recently?” or “How busy is the city centre?”

Currently, standard search engines such as Google are not able to answer search queries of this type, the release added.

Dr Iadh Ounis, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, said: “The SMART engine will be able to answer high-level queries by automatically identifying cameras, microphones and other sensors that can contribute to the query, then synthesising results stemming from distributed sources in an intelligent way”.

SMART, he said, builds upon the existing concept of “smart cities”, physical spaces which are covered in an array of intelligent sensors which communicate with each other and can be searched for information.

The search results sourced from these smart cities can be reused across multiple applications, making the system more effective.

SMART is likely to be tested in a real city by 2014. The SMART project is a joint research initiative of nine partners including Atos, Athens Information Technology, IBM’s Haifa Research Lab, Imperial College London, City of Santander, PRISA Digital, Telesto and Consorzio S3 Log.

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