(Yicai Global) Feb. 9 -- Baidu Inc. [NASDAQ:BIDU], owner of China's leading internet search engine, plans to dissolve its underperforming medical business and concentrate on the application of artificial intelligence systems in healthcare.
"Healthcare is a market with great potential, and AI is the most important power that can change healthcare," founder Robin Li said at a financial forum today.
Set up just two years ago, the department overseeing the tech giant's medical business mainly provided hospital-related services. It underperformed other divisions, but was not linked with the Beijing-based company's medical ad business that mired Baidu in scandal last year after someone died following an experimental cancer treatment at a medical center listed in Baidu.com's top paid search results.
AI will play a role in many aspects of healthcare such as smart registration and diagnosis, genomic data collection, as well as drug research and development, he said. Baidu has so far focused on smart wearable devices and transport systems, smart homes, robotics and other software and hardware based on AI.
The company is one of China's top internet firms, but its market value has been far lower than its two closest rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. [NYSE:BABA] and Tencent Holdings Ltd. [HKG:0700]. E-commerce giant Alibaba has a market cap of about USD252 billion, while social media heavyweight Tencent is worth about HKD1.93 trillion (USD249 billion).
Baidu's market cap comes in at just USD62 billion. Li is banking on the AI revolution to turn that around. On Jan. 17, the company announced it had lured AI expert Lu Qi from Microsoft Corp. and would make him its president and CEO of Baidu. Lu is expected to become the No.2 guy at Baidu. Li said his own understanding of AI is just 10 percent's of Lu's.