Personal-computer maker Dell said it is teaming up with top Chinese search engine Baidu to develop smartphones, as the two firms seek to tap into the nation's lucrative mobile Internet market.
The pairing will allow the companies to compete against the likes of Apple, whose iPhones are hugely popular in China -- the world's largest online market with 485 million users.
A spokesman for Dell, who declined to be named, told AFP that the Texas-based firm and Baidu will make smartphones together, but declined to comment further on details of the cooperation or the timing for product releases.
Baidu was not immediately available for comment.
A report on China's popular Internet portal Sina.com, citing unnamed sources, said the first smartphones jointly designed by Dell and Baidu could hit the market as early as November.
The announcement comes just days after Baidu, which has more than 75% of China's search-engine market, unveiled a new software platform compatible with Google's Android mobile operating system.
The Baidu Yi platform -- the Chinese word "yi" means "easy" -- will allow third-party developers to offer applications for mobile phones such as games and tools.
According to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Centre, nearly two-thirds of web users in China use mobile Internet.
And China had more than 900 million mobile-phone subscribers at the end of April, highlighting the potential for mobile Internet use.
Baidu has identified cooperation with other companies and diversification of the services it proposes as key pillars for development.
Last year, it launched an e-shopping mall with Japanese web retailer Rakuten, a video website called Qiyi, and unveiled a platform allowing users to run games, videos and other applications on its website Baidu.com.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011