Apple, Baidu in rumoured tie-up
Apple's anticipated launch of greater Chinese-user support on the new version of its computer operating system may well lead to a similar enhancement for the iPhone.
The technology giant is said to be planning to add Baidu's online search engine on the iPhone, according to Bloomberg yesterday, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter.
Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo would not comment on the report, but said speculation about such a development followed an earlier announcement by Apple regarding OS X Mountain Lion, the ninth major release of its Mac operating system.
Apple said in February that there would be new features specifically designed to support Chinese users on Mountain Lion, including significant improvements to the Chinese input method and the option to select Baidu search in the Safari Web browser.
Baidu is the largest online search services provider on the mainland. It had a 78.5 per cent market share in the first quarter, compared with Google's 16.6 per cent share, according to research firm Analysys International. Google, which runs the world's leading internet search provider, is the default search engine on the Safari Web browser in iPhone and iPad.
The announcement about a 'Baidu-on-iPhone' deal is expected to be made as early as next week, when Apple stages its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event in San Francisco from June 11-15.
Carolyn Wu, Apple spokeswoman in Beijing, declined to comment.
Greater support for Baidu on the iPhone operating system, called iOS, would bolster Apple's efforts to expand the number of iPhone users on the mainland, the world's largest market for mobile phones. China Unicom and China Telecom currently support the iPhone on their networks.
China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless network operator, with 672.5 million total subscribers as of April, has been negotiating with Apple to be the next carrier-partner for the iPhone on the mainland.
Apple said its five-day conference next week would show application developers innovations on the iOS and the OS X platforms.
The company also said Mountain Lion will be released this summer, when the operating system upgrade is made available on the online Mac App Store.
'I believe that Baidu will be the default search engine in the mainland version of Mountain Lion,' said Claus Mortensen, a principal for the Asia-Pacific emerging-technology advisory-services programme at market research firm IDC.
IDC ranked Apple the No11 personal computer brand on the mainland last year, but estimated that sales of the California-based company's iMacs and MacBooks almost doubled to 1 million units from about 600,000 in 2010.
Apple had also announced support for Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo and top mainland video websites such as Youku, on Mountain Lion. There will also be easier set-up for Contacts, Mail and Calendar functions with top mainland e-mail service providers, such as Tencent's QQ, 126.com and Netease.com's 163.