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Chinese Search Giant Goes Mobile

A new smartphone OS is Baidu’s bid to own mobile search

3 min read
Young mobile users on a subway.
Searching: As China’s mobile phone users upgrade to smartphones, its Internet search firms are making their own operating systems and phones to keep up.
Photo: Cristian Baitg/ iStockphoto

China’s 1 billion mobile phone users are ready for an upgrade. In the biggest mobile market in the world, consumers are switching in droves from feature phones to smartphones. As these consumers start relying on their phones for Web access, Baidu, the Internet company often called the Google of China, is making a serious play to capture the mobile search market. The company has introduced its own mobile operating system for smartphones and says it’s now working on projects with about 20 phone makers. The OS, of course, puts Baidu search and other Baidu services front and center. China’s other major Internet companies are also jockeying for a piece of the mobile OS market, but the stakes are higher for Baidu.

Baidu’s imperative is obvious: The company dominates PC-based Internet searches in China but commands only 34 percent of mobile searches, according to Analysys International, a Chinese IT research firm. To stay relevant, the company must adapt.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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