Orange and Baidu's smartphone alliance

Emeka Obiodu/Ovum
Ovum
France Telecom/Orange and Baidu, the leading Chinese-language Internet search provider, have signed an exclusive deal to co-develop a new mobile browser for emerging markets.
 
The new browser will be designed for the Android platform and will be available in Arabic, English, and French across Orange’s footprint in Africa and the Middle East, starting with Egypt.
 
While the new browser will offer enhanced data compression capabilities, the bigger story is that the Orange–Baidu browser will give Orange an opportunity to create a portal for web apps without launching a dedicated app store. The partnership also marks Baidu’s first major attempt at internationalization.
 
Orange adds something new for Africa
 
As a product, we were impressed by the look and feel of the new Orange–Baidu browser during a demonstration organized by Orange. While the main technical benefit is the browser’s enhanced data compression capabilities (which can reduce the amount of data consumed by 30–90%), the one-click access to web-based apps and internet services is likely to be of more benefit to customers. For example, during the demonstration, the home screen featured Facebook, Wikipedia, and Dailymotion, all of which are services that Orange is looking to push to its customers.
 
As Orange seeks to capitalize on the growth of mobile Internet services in Africa, the browser will become a de facto application store/portal for Orange’s customers. Orange runs web portals in most of its European markets, where it promotes a variety of Internet content such as news, films, and music. However, Orange recognizes that Internet usage in emerging markets is more likely to be via low-cost, small screens. As a result, the Orange–Baidu browser will seek to replicate the portal strategy but with a browser that delivers enhanced data compression capabilities so as to reduce the strain on networks and the cost for users.
 
In doing this, Orange is looking to create a tighter bond with its nearly 80 million customers in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. The company already notes that demand for Android devices in Egypt has doubled in the second half of 2012, which explains why Egypt is the first market to get the new browser.
 

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