SEARCH ENGINE PROVIDER Microsoft has inked a deal with Chinese search outfit Baidu to provide English language results on Baidu's web site.
Microsoft's previous big search engine deal was with falling giant Yahoo, however its latest deal with Baidu seems to have a far brighter future. Baidu is to China what Google is to the rest of the world, with over 75 per cent of the Chinese search engine market and Google trailing in second place with just 20 per cent.
The deal means that all English-language queries entered into Baidu will automatically be served up by Bing, though they will be displayed on Baidu's web site. Given that Google has all but given up on the Chinese search engine market following last year's very public spat with local authorities over censorship, the deal gives Microsoft a good chance to build its presence in what will soon become the world's largest economy.
Google's 20 per cent of the Chinese search engine market isn't something to be embarrassed about, however the number of Chinese people that have access ot the internet is growing rapidly. Reuters claims that web penetration in China hovers around the 30 per cent mark, so there is a huge untapped market, one that it looks like Google will be missing out on.
Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said that the deal with Bing will come into effect later this year but builds on the two firms' relationship for mobile search results.
Although Google remains the dominant worldwide force in web search, watching its chief competitor Bing muscle in on what is arguably the most important market in the world must be make it uncomfortable. The problem for Google is not what it already has, but what can it get and China seems to be farther away than ever for the company.
The main question surrounding the deal is just how popular English-language searches are in China. One analyst told Reuters that most Chinese use Google for English-language searches and that Baidu's deal with Microsoft will have little impact.
Regardless of whether it will be a launch pad for Microsoft's Bing or not in China, the fact is any company would want to be partnered with Baidu. For Microsoft, it seems that the firm is having more success flogging Bing as an OEM search engine rather than building up a brand that can compete with Google head on. It's a plan that seems to be working in the US and might soon in China. µ
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