In China, Baidu Fights Google for Control of Android’s Search

Baidu (s bidu), China’s largest search engine, is working with handset makers to become the default search box on Google Android phones for the Chinese market. Robin Li, Baidu’s founder and CEO, wants “a search box very prominently on the phone’s screen,” says the WSJ. Li’s initiative could be met with a simple Baidu search widget, but a far bigger coup would be if Baidu replaced Google (s goog) as the default search engine when an Android phone user presses the dedicated search button on the handset.

Such a move would help Baidu steal away the brand identity and ad revenues from Google’s own mobile platform. Currently, Google doesn’t charge handset makers any licensing fees to use the Android operating system, so Google earns money from the mobile advertising revenues through web searches. Google also shares such revenues with the handset makers, so from a certain point-of-view, Android phone makers like HTC, Motorola (s mot) and Samsung are paid to build Android smartphones. As a result, Baidu may need to offer a similar deal to entice  a switch from Google to Baidu for the default search engine on future Android phones.

Although Baidu isn’t a household name far beyond China, it is the most popular search engine within the country. According to last week’s data from StatCounter, a web-tracking service, Baidu was used for 62.31 percent of all searches in China, or nearly twice that of Google’s 35.84 percent. Other estimates have Baidu’s search share nearing three-quarters of all searches in China. Due to China’s large population, currently estimated at more than 1.3 billion people, Baidu’s 4.6 percent global search market share already rivals that of Microsoft’s (s msft) 4.8 percent. And just under two-thirds of the Chinese have a cell phone, so Baidu wants to continue its search dominance as more Chinese consumers join the mobile web.

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