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What Microsoft’s move to Baidu from Bing in China means

Bing has never really taken off in Asia. Most countries are seeing low single digital usage rates. And in China, it’s almost virtually non-existent ever since its global rebrand from MSN Search in 2009.

Last Wednesday in China it was announced that Microsoft will finally ditch Bing in favour of Baidu for its Microsoft Edge web browser. This will effectively make Baidu the default page for Microsoft in China.

This move makes sense in my opinion as Baidu clearly is in a market leadership position in China with around 65 per cent market share followed by Haosou hovering at 18 per cent. Baidu is also a household and trusted name in China. Trust probably being the important point here. Microsoft needs to leverage this trust for their Edge browser to really take off.

This also provides Microsoft the opportunity to deepen its partnership with Baidu to start leveraging other technologies they have. This past January Baidu got into wearables with its first watch app built specifically for the Android Wear Smartwatches. The Baidu watch app accepts voice input and serves back snippets of results formatted for the watch.

Baidu has also recently gotten into artificial intelligence. They’ve created a supercomputer specialized for the machine-learning technique known as deep learning which aims to use software to understand humans better. This computer, called Minwa is located in Beijing and uses 72 processors and 144 graphics processors known as GPUs. Baidu had subsequently released a paper claiming that the computer had set a new record for recognising images, beating a previous record held by Google.

These two technologies are examples of what Microsoft could potentially benefit from through this new partnership.

In a market like China where the western ‘usuals’ of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others simply do not translate, Microsoft is taking a step towards collaboration to break in. They realise this is important for them and they are open to plugging in other technology components to get them to a higher more strategic place. They are very much looking towards winning the war not the battle.

Some good lessons in here other western technologies companies can learn from if they have any interests in having a long-term strategy in China.

Andy Radovic

Andy Radovic is the APAC Client Partner at Essence Digital, a GroupM company. He is a strategic digital marketer with 13+ years experience working in the digital media space across a variety of agencies, spanning stints in the U.S., Japan, Korea, and now Singapore. Before Essence, he was working for Maxus Asia Pacific, part of the GroupM network, the world’s largest media investment management organisation, and media communications and planning arm of parent company WPP. At Maxus, Andy led regional digital duties for Asia Pacific with a focus on building out the Maxus digital product offering across Asia Pacific focusing on search, social, mobile, digital analytics and e-commerce.