Microsoft pegs China search market as top priority

China is a vital market for Microsoft’s Web search business, as it chases leaders Baidu and Google in the world’s biggest Internet market, the world’s largest software maker said. Since launching its English-language Bing search site in June, Microsoft has been gaining steady share in the United States, with 10.3% in November versus 17.5% for Yahoo and 65.6% for dominant player Google, according to comScore. Microsoft hopes to get off to a similar fast with its Chinese-language Bing site, which is still in its beta phase following a low-key launch in June. “Microsoft is committed to the China market and the search market in China is the most important strategic market for Microsoft,” the company said on Tuesday.

“We specially set the search technology center in China to get a deeper understanding of what Chinese users need, to be able to deliver the best product to them.” China’s Internet market is a hot spot for global companies looking to expand overseas, but localization issues and tough domestic competition have made it tough to crack for global titans such as Yahoo, eBay and Amazon. China’s search market was worth $293 million in the third quarter, up 38% with homegrown leader Baidu well ahead with 63.9% followed by Google at 31.3%, according to search firm Analysis International.

“Google is taking a big share of the China market, roughly 30% but it is not yet threatening Baidu. Bing is still very far away,” said Credit Suisse analyst Wallace Cheung. Analysts analyst Jin Naili said users will need time to try out and get used to Bing before it has any chance of becoming a serious rival to any of the established players. But she added that since Microsoft launched Bing’s China beta versions in June, the number of users who have visited the site at least three months has increased 30% as of October.

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