With its biggest online rival struggling in China, Microsoft has finally struck a search partnership with Baidu, the nation's largest search engine. Terms of the deal haven't been announced, but Microsoft will provide Baidu users with English-language search results.
This is a sizable market, too. Baidu has a cozy relationship with the government in China and now controls about 80 to 85 percent of the Chinese search market, compared with less than 20 percent for Google. And since China has more than 470 million Internet users, it's the largest market for online services on Earth.
"More and more people here are searching for English terms," a Baidu spokesperson said, noting that the company responds to approximately 10 million English-language searches per day. "But Baidu hasn’t done a good job. So here's a way for us to do it."
"Microsoft respects and follows laws and regulations in every country where we run business," a Microsoft statement reads, proactively responding to what will no doubt be the hot-button issue in a country with rampant censorship and human rights abuses. "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."
In other words, Microsoft's English-language search results will be censored, as are Baidu's Chinese-language results. This censorship (and a hotly contested hacking allegation) led to a decision by US search leader Google to officially (but not literally) pull out of the Chinese market earlier this year.