Google is making huge strides in embedding its web experience into phones, and the minds of high end mobile users, but China remains its biggest challenge. There, China Mobile adopted Android with one hand, but then changed almost every aspect of it to create its own branded user experience and store. And the country’s leading search engine provider, Baidu, is also proving a thorn in the US firm’s side.Baidu says it will introduce a new mobile search engine in the first half of 2010, which can be preloaded on handsets – which as Google well knows, is the most effective way to boost uptake and create momentum behind related applications. The Chinese firm already supports about 70% of online searches in its homeland, compared to Google’s 20%, says local research firm IntelliConsulting, and it also has its sights set on other markets, especially those with high levels of Chinese speaking. This could put pressure on Google in east Asia, where it has already lost out in many carrier homescreen deals to Yahoo. However, Google has made more progress on the phone than the PC in China – the same research firm says the two companies accounted for about 26% apiece of the 270m mobile web searches carried out in the second quarter this year.
Several handset makers have already signed deals with Baidu, the firm says – it would not reveal names, but Nokia is an obvious suspect, given that the Chinese firm started work over a year ago on a mobile search platform to be embedded in Nokia phones as a WidSets widget. Baidu is already Nokia’s main web search partner in Chinese speaking markets. In October, Baidu announced an agreement with China Unicom to preload search and other web services on its 3G devices.
As well as conventional search tools, the new application will also link users to Baidu’s message board and online Q&A services, and over time is likely to include integration with location and presence awareness, and social networks, like other search majors.