By Melanie Lee
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top search engine Baidu Inc launched a new mobile application system on Friday, seeking to bolster its presence in the mobile web as competitors including Alibaba Group increase their mobile offerings.
The platform, named Baidu Yi, will enable third-party application developers to create apps such as games, maps and other tools that they can distribute in the Yi store in a similar way to Apple Inc's App store.
Baidu Yi will be based on Google's Android mobile operating system.
Baidu, which runs China's largest search engine with an over 80 percent market share, has been aggressively diversifying into e-commerce, online video and online travel to bolster growth and increase competitiveness.
An array of Chinese Internet firms and telco gear makers have launched self-developed smartphones in order to gain a foothold in a market still dominated by traditional handsets and lower-end second-generation phones.
Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce firm, launched a smartphone running its own mobile operating system in late July that will feature cloud-based applications and Internet search.
Huawei Technologies similarly launched its cloud computing smartphones in August, and Sina Corp recently rolled out a line of smartphones catering to users of its microblogging service Weibo.
Baidu has built its share of China's search market significantly since Google's high-profile exit last year citing hacking and censorship concerns.
Its shares are up nearly 50 percent so far this year, giving it a market value of around $50 billion.
(Writing by Kazunori Takada and Jason Subler; Editing by Lincoln Feast)