Generative AI on Your Phone: Baidu Expands Reach with Lenovo Partnership

In its ongoing efforts to find practical applications for its generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, China’s Baidu has partnered with Lenovo. This collaboration entails integrating Baidu’s AI model into smartphones manufactured by Lenovo, marking the third alliance this year. Baidu recently joined forces with Samsung and Honor, as announced last month. As a prominent Beijing-based tech giant and leading search engine, Baidu has been focusing on leveraging its extensive data for AI projects, representing a significant growth area, mainly following Google’s exit from the Chinese market.

A smartphone collaboration is crucial to bring users closer to the company’s AI features and give its technology the broadest possible audience. Generative AI, which can create new information based on inputs, has become a hot trend among phone makers following the popularity of chatbots and real-time translation software. Research firm Canalys expects generative AI features to be included in 5% of smartphones shipped globally in 2024. Only Apple and Huawei are known to sell phones with AI features. Still, Lenovo has a considerable market share in China and has a global presence from its acquisitions of Motorola and IBM’s ThinkPad. The diversity of its product portfolio enables it to compete directly with electronics giants like Samsung and iPhone maker Apple.

The partnership with Lenovo is the first of several that the Beijing-based company will announce in the coming months to make it easier for users to access its AI technologies on their mobile devices. The company has partnerships with U.S. AI service providers like OpenAI and Google, but the U.S. firms’ products are unavailable in the domestic market.

Its technology deeply bundled with phones could also help Baidu catch up to competitors in the AI smartphone arena, where it has struggled to gain a foothold compared with the likes of WeChat maker Tencent and Clash of Clans developer Supercell. WeChat has a built-in AI engine that supports 700 million active monthly users. Tencent’s backend systems support its diverse investments, including Hollywood movie studio STX and game developers.

Nasdaq-traded Baidu’s partnership with Lenovo comes just days after it reportedly agreed to invest more than $100 million in ShenQi. This online-only smartphone brand will focus on the domestic market and sell its hardware, software, and services exclusively through viral marketing and online sales. The ShenQi brand is expected to launch in 2022. The brand’s name means “magical” or “beyond imagination,” which is a play on the company’s vision of using AI capabilities to bring users beyond their expectations. ShenQi is expected to compete with Xiaomi, which also focuses on the domestic market and operates an online-only business model. The ShenQi brand will be marketed as a premium device, with Lenovo’s own-brand products and those of its partners expected to be sold at a higher price point than Xiaomi’s.

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