SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Engineers returning to China still have plenty of opportunities in a country poised to shift from copying to innovating, the founder of Baidu told a gathering of 1,500 mostly Chinese tech experts in Silicon Valley.
China’s Internet search giant has no plans to design its own smartphone, but it does want to create new layers of software on top of Google’s Android and open up its data centers to developers around the world, said Robin Li, at a conference of Chinese entrepreneurs.
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"We will open up our cloud computing infrastructure to developers everywhere so they can work at the highest level--this is something unique for China," said Li in an on-stage interview at the annual conference of the Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association (Hysta).
"In the U.S., if you ask for 5 Gbytes of storage [in the cloud], you have to pay for it. But we give 15G and even up to 300G for free—it’s another free thing," said Li.
Baidu also provides an app that lets users upload photos from the smartphones to its servers, storing them without compression. "I think this is very rare," he said.
As for a so-called B-phone: "We don’t need to reinvent the wheel," Li said. "Android is free, so there is a lot we can do to satisfy unmet needs by building on top of it. We are trying to do things that haven’t been done properly or done well for China’s users.”
Founded in 2000, Baidu went public in 2005 and now claims 500 million users and revenues of 15 billion renminbi (about $2.4 billion). It claims it has the world’s fastest browser and most accurate Chinese voice recognition software.
“When I came back to China at Christmas 1999, a lot of people said, 'You are too late to the Internet—it’s already crowded and there are not many chances for people like you,' " said Li who earned a doctorate in computer science in the U.S. and went on to develop key search algorithms at two U.S. companies before returning to China.
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