Microsoft Corp. has signed a deal with China’s leading Internet search engine - Baidu, to offer its English-language search functions to Chinese users.

The agreement, which was announced Monday, comes more than a year after Google Inc. pulled out of China largely over disagreements about censorship and ceded just under half its market share to Baidu. Microsoft expects that this partnership will result to technological advantages for both parties and jointly provide the best search experience for Chinese users who need to search in English.

The Chinese Internet giant has long struggled to match Google’s English search capabilities and is likely to introduce Microsoft Bing by the end of the year, albeit one that will have to stick on to the country’s ever-expanding censorship rules.

To be sure, the overwhelming majority of Baidu users access the search engine for Chinese results. The company commands 83% of the domestic search market in the world’s largest Internet community with over 470 million users.

“It’s a non-trivial matter to build your own index of English pages, so why not partner with someone who already does that well?” said Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman for Baidu. “It’s all about serving the needs of our users.” Kuo said the deal could also make Baidu more competitive in search markets outside of China. “We’ll learn quite a bit,” he said. “And that certainly will help us venture into other markets with our core search product.”

The deal gives Microsoft a huge foothold in China for Bing, whose presence is currently negligible.

Edward Yu, head of Analysys International, a consultancy specializing in the Chinese web industry, said Microsoft is more proficient at navigating Chinese politics than Google ever was.


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