Baidu, China's prominent tech giant, has struck its third partnership with a smartphone manufacturer, this time teaming up with Lenovo to integrate its advanced generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology into Lenovo's mobile devices, according to Reuters. This collaboration follows Baidu's recent agreements with Samsung and Honor, marking a significant push to embed its Ernie large language model (LLM) into a wider range of consumer technology products.

Lenovo, which markets its own branded smartphones and is the parent company of Motorola, will incorporate Baidu's Ernie AI into its browser and app store applications, extending the technology's reach beyond Lenovo's existing personal computers and tablets. This move underscores the growing trend of equipping smartphones with generative AI capabilities, such as sophisticated chatbots and real-time translation services, a demand fueled by the global popularity of platforms like ChatGPT in late 2022.

Industry experts, including research firm Canalys, project that AI-capable smartphones will constitute 5% of global shipments by 2024, translating to approximately 60 million devices. With U.S.-based AI services like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's offerings inaccessible in China, Chinese tech firms, including Baidu's rivals Alibaba and Tencent, have seized the opportunity to fill the void, collectively bringing over 200 AI models to the Chinese market.

Baidu's foray into smartphone AI integration aligns with CEO Robin Li's vision of developing practical applications for AI technology. Major Chinese smartphone brands such as Vivo, Xiaomi, and Huawei are also venturing into on-device AI models, though specifics of these initiatives remain under wraps.

The strategic embedding of Baidu's AI technology in smartphones not only bolsters the company's position in the competitive AI landscape but also offers a gateway to a wealth of user data. This influx of information could prove instrumental in enhancing Baidu's LLM capabilities, potentially narrowing the technological gap with its U.S. counterparts.

Ivan Lam, an analyst at Counterpoint Research, highlights the timeliness of adopting LLM on smartphones to promote AI-powered features. Although current applications may be limited, the expectation is that they will evolve into essential components of future mobile devices.

As Baidu continues to expand its AI ecosystem through strategic partnerships and technological advancements, the company is setting the stage for a new era of AI-integrated mobile computing, promising an enriched user experience and pioneering the next wave of smart technology innovation.