Yesterday, Microsoft senior VP Shen Xiangyang announced Bing's new short-term strategy for China's search market: differentiate itself by going after the 5 percent of searches that happen in English rather than trying to compete with Baidu in Chinese. The Chinese language search also just launched a few new features, including a developers' page, but apparently Bing is looking to English, not Chinese, to crack the China search market.
Shen says five percent of China's search market belongs to English searches, and most of those are from high-end (i.e., monied and therefore valuable) users. Bing's plan is to offer then better English search, translation, and dictionary services.
On the one hand, this makes total sense. Baidu's English language search is terrible, and Google.com.hk isn't always reliable. When my VPN was broken, I'll admit I did find myself using Bing from time to time to find things.
But therein lies the rub: what percent of those 5 percent of English searches come over VPNs, where Bing will have to compete with Google on even footing? Certainly, nearly every expatriate in China has a VPN. And many high-end Chinese users --the sorts of people who would be searching in English -- have VPNs too. Is there really a market there big enough to make any money off? I'm skeptical, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Whatever the result, China's search market seems to be experiencing quite the shakeup between this and the ongoing Baidu-Qihoo spat. That's probably a good thing for users no matter who ends up in the chairs when the music stops. It seems pretty obvious Baidu will be one of them. Is there really room for Bing to squeeze in too? [Sina Tech via Techweb]