Apple 'to add Baidu service' to iPhones

Updated: 2012-06-08 10:52

By Chen Limin and Tuo Yannan (China Daily)

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Apple 'to add Baidu service' to iPhones

The Baidu search site on an iPhone in Beijing on Wednesday. Apple Inc plans to add the search service of Baidu Inc to iPhones sold in the country. [Photo/China Daily]

Deal would benefit Baidu, aims to improve user experience in China

Apple Inc plans to add the search service of Baidu Inc, China's biggest search engine, to iPhones sold in the country, part of its effort to cash in on the Chinese market.

The agreement to add Baidu's search engine as one of the Web tools on the iPhone could be announced as early as next week, according to Bloomberg, citing two unnamed sources.

However, Yue Guofeng, general manager at Baidu's mobile Internet division, said he couldn't provide any details on the issue, when approached by China Daily on Thursday.

In a report on late last month, Yue was quoted as saying that Baidu's search service will be pre-installed in iPhone's browser Safari, but "it depends on when the contract between Apple and Google expires".

Analysts said the move aims to improve iPhone's user experience in China, and reduce Google Inc's exposure on the iPhone.

Hong Bo, a Beijing-based IT analyst, said a deal between Apple and Baidu would be "quite natural, as Apple attaches a great deal of importance to user experience while Google access is not always stable".

Apple has started to provide more localized services in China as it tries to increase its footprint in the world's most populous market. It started accepting payment in yuan on its online store last year, where users previously had to pay with dollar-based credit cards.

And the possible deal between Apple and Baidu follows reports that the US company may open new stores in Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Competition between Apple and Google will lead to the declining exposure of Google services on Apple's products, Hong said.

The possible deal may benefit Baidu, which is still in a far from dominant position in the mobile search sector, he added.

Baidu accounted for around 35 percent of total searches via mobile devices last year, followed by with 21 percent, and Tencent Holdings Ltd's at 20 percent, according to domestic research company Analysys International.

Li Zhi, a senior analyst with the research company, said that a possible deal with Apple was aimed more at gaining publicity than boosting Baidu's share in the mobile market, as iPhone users are in the minority among Chinese mobile phone users.

Apple's first mainland store opened in Beijing's Sanlitun area in 2008, and China is the source of about 10 percent of the company's sales revenue, according to Tim Cook, the company's CEO.

Earlier this week, Apple's new iPad was granted a network access license for the Chinese mainland, a step that will pave the way for the sale of its device.

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Apple 'to add Baidu service' to iPhones