China is the one place where Google doesn't necessarily dominate in terms of search and mobile. But with Android espousing an open platform, companies like Dell and Baidu have developed their own derivative operating system meant for the Chinese market. Will the country's 1 billion users be a reason for other platform owners to worry?

Android Inside, But Not Exactly

Baidu earlier gave a sneak peek of its upcoming Yi OS, which is a customized operating system based on Google's Android platform, with Dell expressing interest in producing smartphones and tablets running the operating system. The new operating system essentially eschews Google services in favor of Baidu's own, including search, email, maps and even voice recognition. Today, Dell has announced the launch of the Streak Pro D43 smartphone in Beijing.

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The Dell Streak Pro D43 has Android underpinnings, but offers Baidu services, meant for the Chinese market

Penn Olson notes that this venture is Baidu's biggest foray into mobile, with the country's top search company touting the smartphone as a premium device for accessing content and services. The Streak Pro D43 will be powered by a dual-core processor running at 1.5 GHz and a crisp Super AMOLED screen that outputs 960 x 540 pixels resolution. The Streak will also come with an 8-megapixel camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for videoconferencing.

The Streak Pro D43 will be launched on China Unicom's WCDMA network, which likewise carries the iPhone 4S in the country.

Learning Opportunities

No Android Market?

Baidu will offer its own branded services as replacements for major Google apps like Gmail and Maps. Yi OS will feature Baidu's own streaming music service, e-book library and mapping application, among others. The biggest change, perhaps, is the fact that Yi OS will feature an entirely different application ecosystem from Android. Android Market is banned in China, and Baidu will be running its own application marketplace to support Yi OS.

But while Baidu gets its developer ecosystem jumpstarted, users can still install third-party Android apps through direct .APK download or installation, or through third-party app marketplaces.

Can Yi OS be a formidable challenger to more established platforms like the iPhone and Android? With China's 1 billion mobile users to date, Baidu has some serious potential as a major player in the international mobile platform race. However, the company will have to ensure a healthy developer and application ecosystem in order to support and sustain growth.