|By Maureen O'Gara||
|September 10, 2012 04:00 AM EDT||
Baidu, China's biggest PC-based search engine, said Monday in Beijing that it's going to put upwards of $1.6 billion in a new cloud computing center.
It declined to give details but the sum it says it's willing to spend is a powerful lot of money in any currency.
One report suggests the center will be online in four years and have upwards of three million CPU cores and 4,000PB of storage. It could take Baidu four years to figure out how to pay for such a thing.
Obviously it wants a gateway for mobile services such as the online storage it's already offering. It released free tools on Monday to encourage developers to build apps using its cloud services.
According to Reuters, Baidu, which just unveiled a new version of its mobile browser, "is pushing deep into cloud computing as the heart of its mobile strategy."
Baidu unfortunately has no dominant product in the mobile sector, which now commands 70% of Chinese Internet users.
It's counting on having its Baidu Explorer browser on 80% of the Android phones in China by the end of the year. It's supposed to be 20% faster than Chrome, Firefox, Opera and local rival, Qihoo. It can run apps and video directly off the Internet.
Its own new low-cost Android smartphone is due out next week.
Baidu's got the same problem as Facebook, namely monetizing mobile ads after being distracted by the desktop.
Its browser is available in English.