Google, whose Internet search engine has seriously struggled in China to replicate its market dominance elsewhere in the world, is bringing all the firepower it can to overwhelm local rival Baidu in the vast new frontier of Chinese third-generation mobile-phone Internet search. No matter who the new boss of Google China turns out to be this battle will continue.
China didn’t introduce 3G mobile-phone technology until the start of this year but had more than 695 million mobile users at the end of June, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Lee Kaifu, president of Google Greater China, said, "As 3G starts in China, mobile Internet will be an explosive opportunity. For example, Beijing is often choked with traffic. For people who are driving, a real-time traffic map of the city available on mobile phone will be very useful."
Lee envisions a day when more people will be using cellphones than computers to go online in China. This seems highly possible if, in the short term, unlikely.
Lee Kaifu said, "Right now, the Internet traffic from mobile phones is about one-twentieth of that from computers in China. But mobile Internet traffic can catch up quickly once the infrastructure is ready."
Supporting mobile Internet has been an important goal for Google, which launched the Android program late last year to make Internet-ready phones easier to produce. In China, Google has been working on mobile applications since 2007. It will face a fight from rival Baidu, which also believes in the potential of the mobile search market.
Yet Baidu has been slow to put its mobile initiatives into action.
Only in May did it sign up China Telecom, the smallest of the three mobile operators in China, to be its mobile search partner. Baidu’s late start in mobile development could provide an opportunity for Google to narrow its gap with Baidu in China market.
At the end of last year, Baidu had 60% of the overall search engine market in China, compared with 30% of GoogleThe two are more evenly matched in the mobile search sector, where Baidu had 29% of the market, against Google’s 27%.
Asia Times Online points out that in China, the most widely-used mobile Internet application at the moment belongs to neither Google nor Baidu, but Tencent, which operates the country’s most popular online chat platform, QQ.