Chinese Internet search engine Baidu.com (BIDU) has announced public tests of its new voice-activated search.
Local media reports the new service will be available to both fixed phone and mobile phone users. When a user calls 400 666 8585 to reach Baidu's engineer, the engineer will offer them a search result based on their request. That search result can be provided based on voice or sent to users' mobile phone via SMS. In addition, Baidu's voice search can also help people with visual disabilities to access Internet information.
As of January 2008, there are 920 million telephone users in China, of which over 500 million are mobile phones. So the launch of the new service is expected to help Baidu penetrate over 1 billion users and increase the influence of its online search activities.
The fee for Baidu's new voice service is reported to be CNY1 per minute, which might be too expensive and may initially limit the development of the service. At present, Baidu is offering a CNY5 service fee to new users who apply for the service.