BAIDU, China's largest search engine provider, will invest about 10 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) to build cloud computing centers to attract web-based software developers as it seeks to offer more services to users.

Baidu will also allow application developers to access freely its cloud computing capabilities, the firm said yesterday. It hopes this move may help attract more smartphone users by providing them with a wider range of web-based services.

Baidu's CEO Jennifer Li revealed the investment plan at the company's annual technology innovation conference in Beijing yesterday. But she didn't reveal details of their locations and when these facilities will be completed.

Li Mingyuan, general manager of Baidu's mobile and cloud computing division, said: "We're also working on the payment solution for smartphone users to pay for applications or other value-added services within games and other web-based services." But he said no timetable has been set for the launch of the services.

Baidu seeks to boost its position in the mobile Internet sector by providing users varied services backed by a large number of software developers, observers said. The move is also seen as a bid by Baidu to diversify its revenue stream.

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