Game on with Tencent and Alibaba: Baidu integrates cloud with big data and AI

At the strategy conference of Baidu cloud computing on Wednesday, Baidu launched three intelligent cloud platforms. They will integrate with pre-existing cloud services for its open cloud platforms to help enterprises increase working efficiency.

Baidu founder and CEO Robin Li said that Baidu has been a de facto search engine company from the very beginning, but that the company was bound to move into cloud technology, as efficient web searching is made possible via the cloud.

Li said that Baidu used to consider cloud computing as too simple a technology and would rather focus on building its web search engine, but then some recent changes happened: On the one hand, the days are gone when economic development is accelerated by a cheap labor force, and companies today must survive using technological innovations and higher efficiency. On the other hand, cloud technology has been making breakthroughs, and it is no longer merely about storage and computing. Instead, cloud technology now complements other new technologies like big data and artificial intelligence (AI), all areas where Baidu has created itself niche.

Baidu’s food delivery subsidiary serves as a good example of the new opportunities created. Though some netizens doubt if it appears weird that an internet giant is working on food delivery, Li said that food delivery is in effect a matter of logistics, and this means that AI and machine learning can be used to plan delivery routes and times, thereby maximizing efficiency.

There were three platforms launched at the event. “Tiansuan” integrates big data with AI, offering one-stop services covering collection, storage, analysis and application of data. Additionally, its sub-platform, “Paddle”, gives enterprises easy access to deep learning technology to build their own services. “Tianxiang” enhances user experiences in online interactions like live streaming, where it supports real-time special effects and detection of inappropriate streaming content. Finally, there is “Tiangong”, which facilitates enterprises to build an Internet of Things with their partners, focusing on five industries: manufacturing logistics, internet of vehicles, energy, and O2O retail.

Li said that Baidu has been cooperating with about three million search marketing and O2O enterprises, and that Baidu will continue opening cloud-related technologies to help companies increase efficiency.

Last Tuesday, Tencent founder Pony Ma also emphasized the potential of cloud servicing at the 2016 Tencent Cloud summit. According to Jiemian News, Tencent Cloud now focuses on fields ranging from videos, gaming and mobile businesses.

However, compared with Baidu, whose open cloud platform was officially available for registration last April, and Tencent, whose “Cloud+ Plan” was launched last June, Alibaba started its AliCloud rather early – in 2009. Financial services corporation Morgan Stanley predicted this June that AliCloud will take 58% of shares in China’s cloud market by the end of the fiscal year in 2019. A report from Deutsche Bank this April estimates a revenue of RMB 67.7 billion (USD 10.1 billion) for AliCloud in 2019.

One important question remains: Now that the three Chinese internet giants have shifted their focus to cloud technologies, how will any startup be able to make their mark in this field in the future?

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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