For the uninitiated, Baidu is sometimes considered the “Chinese Google”, starting with a powerful (and relentlessly censored) search engine and expanding into things like email, maps and even mobile services. Now the company has taken it one step further, releasing a complete ROM for the Nexus S, replacing all of Google’s services with their own. It’s kind of like some of the Bing-branded Android phones Verizon has released, only creepier.
Users can download the ROM now and follow the instructions to flash their phones, giving them integrated access to things like Wangpan (“Baidu Drive”), Xiangce (Picasa) and the standard suite of maps, music, calendar, et cetera. Baidu says that it will update its ROM every two weeks and issue OTA updates, though there’s no news on when or iff this service will extend to other devices. The ROM is part of their new Cloud OS initiative.
Since Google officially left the Chinese market after spats with the People’s Republic over censorship, Android itself hasn’t stopped its dominating march in the world’s most populous nation. While the percentage of smartphone users in China lags behind other industrialized nations, there’s still a market of tens of millions of potential customers, growing all the time. Android’s open-source nature allows for even the smallest of manufacturers to take advantage of the latest software, but it also allows for the extreme manufacturer and carrier customization that’s been a thorn in the side of the platform for years.