Bloomberg reports that Apple plans to offer Baidu - China’s leading search engine as one of the search engine options to iPhone users in China, as a part of its greater strategy to increase its presence in the country. We had heard about this a few months ago.
The announcement could be made as early as next week, at Apple’s WWDC keynote.
Google would still be the default choice, but users would now have the option of choosing Baidu and searching right from Mobile Safari’s search bar. Presently, Chinese users have to either visit Baidu’s website or download an app to search on an iPhone. It remains to be seen if Apple will add Baidu in iOS 5.x.x or in iOS 6.
Apple’s executives have, a number of times, underscored the importance of China in Apple’s future growth, and this is Apple doing its bit to ensure that the iPhone remains a compelling offering to Chinese customers. A number of Chinese web services have been integrated in OS X Mountain Lion, and it’ll be interesting to see if Apple plans to integrate some of China’s social networks into iOS 6 as well. Twitter integration found in iOS 5, and Facebook integration we might see in iOS 6 are useless in China, where both these services are blocked.
Baidu’s market share in China dwarfs that of Google (4 to 1), and with this integration in place Google’s position would further weaken. It’s interesting to note though, that just like Google, Baidu has its own mobile operating system (an Android fork) that it shops around to manufacturers.
Google had earlier voluntarily pulled out of China due to differences it had with the Chinese government’s censorship policies. Apple on the other hand has maintained strong relations with Chinese government officials, since its entire production line as well as its future growth depends largely on this region.
Even if Apple’s sole reason to add Baidu is to help out Chinese iPhone users, collectively, Apple’s announcements during WWDC, including the mapping service, would be extremely detrimental to Google.