It was rumored before and now it looks like it’s happening: Apple is going to offer China’s leading search engine, Baidu, as an option on iPhones sold in China. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the deal was done, and that Apple could announce it at WWDC in San Francisco next week.
That’s a boon to the growing ranks of of Chinese iPhone users, and to Apple if it wants to continue to attract new customers in the region. It’s been reported that Baidu accounts for nearly 80 percent of searches in China. And that explains why Apple has already announced that Baidu, along with Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter), will be built-in search and sharing options for the greater China market when its desktop software, OS X Mountain Lion, debuts this summer.
In both cases, rather than an outright replacement, Baidu will be another option. Google Search is the current default search engine in the mobile Safari browser on the iPhone, but handset owners can set Microsoft’s Bing to be the default as well.
But while it’s not a replacement, it is a way for Apple to shrink Google’s footprint on its most important products. And search isn’t the only area where Apple is said to be plotting to move away from Google: It’s widely expected that Apple is going to announce its own mobile mapping solution at WWDC next week, revealing what the three mapping companies it bought in the last few years have put together.
As Google continues to grow its market share of smartphones that compete with Apple’s, it makes a lot of sense for Apple to set itself up to be less and less dependent on its archrival for some of the iPhone’s most basic functions.