Online-search giant Baidu is poised to further extend its reach on the mainland, the world's largest internet market, after Apple made it the favoured search service for local users of its personal computers.
Apple's recently announced OS X Mountain Lion, the ninth major release of its desktop operating system, will deliver features specifically designed to support Chinese users, including the option to select Baidu search in the Safari web browser.
'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 analysis firm IDC. 'This only makes sense because Baidu is the country's biggest search engine.'
Baidu had a 78.3 per cent share of the mainland's desktop internet-search market in the fourth quarter of last year, according to market research firm Analysys International.
Its closest competitor, Google, had a 16.7 per cent market share.
Analyst Dong Xu, of Analysys International, forecasts a moderate, incremental addition to Baidu's market share this year because Apple's desktop and laptop computers remain a small player in the domestic personal computer market.
IDC ranked Apple as the No11 personal computer brand on the mainland last year, but pointed out that sales of the US firm's iMacs and MacBooks almost doubled to 1 million units from about 600,000 in 2010.
That strong pick-up, which was no doubt helped by the popularity of Apple's iPhone and iPad, is expected to continue and allow the US technology powerhouse to crack the mainland's top-10 personal computer brands this year, according to IDC.
Apple's support is a development that augurs well for Baidu's expansion plans, which include a sharpened focus on different online market segments.
'Our long-term market opportunity in China is still enormous,' Baidu chief executive Robin Li Yanhong said in a conference call with analysts on February 16, the same day Apple announced the preview of Mountain Lion to developers worldwide.
Apple's new operating system is slated for release this summer,
'In 2012, we will remain focused on exploiting opportunities through better understanding of customer needs,' Li said.
Baidu last year saw an 88 per cent increase in net profit to 6.63 billion yuan (HK$8.15 billion) from 3.52 billion yuan in 2010. Its total revenue was up 83 per cent to 14.5 billion yuan from 7.91 billion yuan the year earlier.