Although some of you might have laughed a few days back when we told you about Baidu’s plans to challenge Google and Apple in the mobile OS market, today we have additional news on the Chinese company’s intentions, and these look even more ambitious.

Upon officially introducing the Cloud ROM to the public, Baidu has announced that it is in discussions with 20 handset manufacturers “to seek possibilities for cooperation”. The 20 unnamed companies join a list of Baidu partners already featuring Changhong, the manufacturer behind the making of the first ever Cloud-powered phone, and Dell, a company that probably needs no introduction.

While today’s press release doesn’t clearly state what are Baidu’s intentions for the “cooperation” with the 20 handset manufacturers, it’s safe to assume that the Chinese are looking for hardware partners to support their software initiative and help them offer smartphones with “locally appealing services at a sub-$150 price tag.”

Baidu’s Cloud ROM offers improved system performance compared to an average Android handheld, as well as upgrades to the interactive interface and a bunch of unique features, like the “smart voice recognition command” function, smart data monitoring, data synchronization, and battery conservation mode. Or at least that’s what the company is claiming in today’s press release…

The software is based on Android, but is massively tweaked, especially in terms of looks, and Baidu is planning to “fork” it even further in the near future. For the time being, the Nexus S is the only Android-based device to support the Cloud ROM, but there are plans to offer support for several other Gingerbread and ICS-running phones.

What do you guys think about Baidu’s plans? Do they have a shot in challenging Android, at least in China? And do you think there are any major hardware manufacturers out there willing to back Baidu’s software initiative? Let us know down below!