There's plenty of evidence that mobile usage is growing in China (take a look at SmartPlanet's report by Beijing correspondent Tom Hancock). And American companies are taking notice and tapping Chinese mobile app developers skills and savvy. On Thursday, technology giant Intel signed an agreement with Baidu, China's largest search engine, to create a new innovation lab focusing on mobile software for the Chinese market.
As part of the deal, Baidu engineers and designers will use tablets and phones that rely on Intel's chips. The goal is to create new apps based on existing Baidu search-related products, such as maps. In a report published by Infoworld today, "Baidu and Intel intend to keep the partnership limited to software and hardware integration and will not include joint smartphone development," wrote IDG News service reporter Michael Kan, citing Li Ming Yuan, Baidu general manager for mobile and cloud. (Does that mean we shouldn't expect a new Intel/Baidu tablet to come out of this lab, too?)
This is clearly a strategic move for Intel to gain a larger presence in China to eventually supply more Chinese companies with chips. And to simply build its brand. But beyond the business side of the deal, it will be fascinating to see what sorts of user experiences come out of the new innovation lab. Will there be new interfaces emerging that will later be adapted by U.S. developers? Will there be fresh font aesthetics or small-screen layouts inspired by working with Chinese characters, which will in turn inspire Intel engineers and designers around the world?
Creating a joint innovation lab between Intel and Baidu has more potential than just catering to the Chinese market, although obviously it's a timely and wise strategy. Imagine what global insights can emerge when two such powerhouses team up.