Baidu announced Tuesday the appointment of Jing Kun, general manager of Baidu’s Smart Living Group (SLG), to vice president as it shores up efforts to monetize AI amid a sharp dropoff in revenue growth from its core online advertising business.
A former Microsoft R&D director responsible for creating Xiaoice, the company’s beloved Chinese social chatbot, Jing joined Baidu in 2014 as chief architect for search engine products. He has been leading the business and technology development for the voice assistant platform DuerOS, Baidu’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa, since late 2016.
According to Baidu’s first-quarter earnings release, more than 275 million devices are equipped with its voice assistant. Voice queries reached 2.37 billion in March.
The Chinese search engine giant tops the country’s smart speaker market, with shipments of its smart speaker Xiaodu reaching 3.3 million units for the first three months this year. It still lags Amazon (4.6 million) and Google (3.5 million) in the global market, said market search firm Canalys in a report.
“All those achievements set a very good example for the company at the current moment,” (our translation) Cui Shanshan, vice president and head of human resources wrote in an internal letter.
Despite the popularity of its voice assistant, AI has yet to contribute meaningfully to Baidu’s bottom line. The company reported a quarterly net loss for the first time since its IPO in 2005, with its total operating expenses surging 53% year on year, mainly due to the investment in growth initiatives including short video, smart speakers, and self-driving cars.