Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Microsoft to partner with China's leading search engine
A year and a half after Google pulled its popular search engine out of mainland China, partly over concerns about censorship, its rival Microsoft has struck a deal with the biggest Chinese search engine, Baidu.com, to offer Web search services in English.
Baidu, previously primarily a Chinese-language search engine, made the announcement Monday afternoon, saying Microsoft's search engine, Bing, was expected to appear on Baidu's Web pages by the end of this year.
Baidu, which dominates Chinese-language search services here with about 83 percent of the market, has been trying for years to improve its English-language search services because English searches on its site are as many as 10 million a day, the company said. Now it has a powerful partner.
"More and more people here are searching for English terms," Kaiser Kuo, the company's spokesman, said Monday. "But Baidu hasn't done a good job. So here's a way for us to do it."
Baidu and Microsoft did not disclose terms of the agreement. But the new English-language search results will undoubtedly be censored, since Beijing maintains strict controls over Internet companies and requires those operating on the mainland to censor results the government deems dangerous or troublesome, including references to human rights issues and dissidents.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said, "Microsoft respects and follows laws and regulations in every country where we run business. We operate in China in a manner that both respects local authority and culture and makes clear that we have differences of opinion with official content management policies."
Microsoft seems to be betting it can get access to what is already the world's largest Internet population of about 470 million users.
Google continues to be available on the mainland, though its search engine, which operates in English and Chinese, was moved last year to Hong Kong, where Beijing's censorship rules do not apply. But lately, Google's search engine and its e-mail service, Gmail, have become more difficult to connect to on the mainland. The company, which is based in Mountain View, California, has blamed the Chinese government for interfering with its operations.
For Microsoft, it could be an opportunity. In a statement released Monday, Shen Xiangyang, Microsoft's senior global vice president, said: "Bing's cooperation with Baidu will allow the vast Baidu users to receive better English search experiences and results" and allow more Chinese users to experience Bing.
Google declined to comment on the partnership between Baidu and Microsoft. But Google says that search is not its biggest business opportunity in China. Instead, it is betting on selling ads to Chinese companies to show users outside China and selling display ads to run on non-Google Web sites, neither of which is dependent on search. Chinese advertisers spent $1.7 billion on display ads last year, one of the highest such spends in the world, according to Google. The company continues to employ 500 people in China and says revenue there is growing year over year.