SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Andy Thurai, Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White

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Microsoft’s Bing gains from Google’s China woes

Google search gets pushed out of Motorola’s Chinese phones. Will Bing be taken more seriously after this?

Even as Google is in talks with the Chinese government that will decide its fate in the country, Motorola has decided not to take any chances and go with Microsoft’s Bing search software for its Chinese Android phone sets. Google has also preemptively barred the use of its mobile applications on Android phones from Chinese carriers.

Google has become increasingly popular in China in recent years and commands about 35% of Chinese search market share that it has steadily snatched from the still dominant Baidu, China’s leading search engine. If Google can't reach an amicable solution with the Chinese government and get over its resistance to search results censorship mandated by China, it might end its operations there leading to potentially more jumps away from its technology within the country and possibly elsewhere. It has also decided to postpone its launch of two Android phones from Samsung and Motorola on the Chinese carrier China Unicom.

On the other hand, the underdog Microsoft’s Bing saw a slight US market share increase in February from 11.3 percent to 11.5 percent, according to the online tracking firm comScore. This is the ninth consecutive month on month increase for the search engine that debuted in June 2009. While Google still remains the numero uno with a 65.5 percent in February, this latest Motorola coup pulled by Microsoft especially in the light of its much publicized China related problems could lead to some future dents in its stellar online business model. So far Google search has been the standard way to go for leading mobile companies. But if Motorola’s Bing venture is a success in China, the idea is likely to catch on. More device makers might be inclined to look at other viable alternatives. It is no secret that in recent times, Motorola has grown to depend a lot on Google‘s Android technology to save its mobile phone business. So the Chicago based company’s migration away from Google on  Google’s home grown Android platform shows that Google’s core competency in search is not that indispensible especially in this particular case as users will not get the freedom to stray from Bing in China.

Moreover Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Internet search partnership recently got approved both in U.S. and Europe and could force Google to make more of an effort to retain its market dominance. Until recently most of Android phones in US went with Google as their default search engine. But the tide seems to be slowly shifting. Bing is now the default engine on some US wireless carrier Verizon’s Blackberries’. AT&T also recently launched its first Android phone the Motorola Backflip, and surprisingly chose to go with Yahoo! as its default search provider.

Of course unlike in China, discerning users can simply switch to their favorite search provider. Even so, search companies clamor for default deals as a means to improve their search engine market share as many users tend to cling to the search engine readily provided.

A large part of Google’s inspiration in developing the mobile Android platform is to extend its powerful advertising platform to the mobile space and boost its search revenues, not to mention its cloud apps integrated through the mobile browser. So far its strategy has worked like a charm with T-Mobile’s staunch support of Android and what with Google being the chief search provider for the ever popular Apple iPhone via AT&T. But with tension mounting everyday between Apple and Google as competition stiffens between the two companies over several mobile segments and the recent launch of Google’s own phone Nexus One , there are no guarantees. There are already rumors flying around that Apple might be in talks with Microsoft to take a closer look at Bing. So far the Chinese Government has not shown any signs of wanting to loosen its grip on the web. If Google walks out of there, it does not take rocket science to figure out who stands to gain the most from Google’s 30 per cent share in China.


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