There's been much news over the past few days about Microsoft Bing's English-language integration with Baidu.com's Chinese search engine.
This story has risen to the top of business charts more likely because of lack of substantial news during the American Independence Day holiday weekend than because it's actually a groundbreaking business decision. Simply, Microsoft's search engine aspirations in China have been more public relations exercises rather than substantive long-term business strategies, making this latest deal with Baidu most likely full of hot air.
Microsoft has previously tried to champion these types of relationships in China. The company reportedly reached a one-year agreement with Winhi.net in August 2010, making the latter Bing's exclusive agency in Guangdong and its first strategic cooperation partner in China. Not much has been heard from this deal since it was inked last year.
In April 2008, Ma Weiying, principal researcher and research area manager for Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, trumpeted that Microsoft had arranged a large team for the development of search engines in China and expected to make some achievements in the field in the coming years. Apparently the research moved the team to forge this deal with Baidu.
In January 2006, we ran a commentary called "Google Is Destined To Fail In China", and much of that commentary proved to be true. That commentary can be applied to Microsoft's online strategies for China — armchair Chinese company investors and Microsoft fans should both not expect much of this Baidu deal either. This Baidu relationship is not the beginning of Microsoft's conquering of the Chinese search engine market.
This Bing deal is reportedly one in which Microsoft will provide English-language search engine results to Baidu.com. Financial details for this deal have not been revealed, and other questions still remain. Will Microsoft censor its English-language results for display with Baidu? Baidu already indexes English-language content, so what type of value does this deal really provide to Baidu?
Microsoft has tried its best to ingratiate itself with Chinese netizens and the Chinese government — back in 2003 it provided its proprietary Windows operating system source code to the Source Code Browsing Lab of the China Testing and Certification Center for Information Security Products. This latest move with Baidu is another good step, but not one that will gain much traction.