[photopress:kaifuligoogle.jpg,full,alignright]Kai-Fu Lee worked for Microsoft. He left to work for Google. He is an expert on speech-recognition technology. When he resigned Microsoft argued that a non-compete agreement meant that Lee couldn’t go to Beijing for Google. A judge disagreed.
Now Kai-Fu Lee is in Beijing, busy recruiting Chinese engineers and building a Chinese operation for Google.
Almost everywhere else in the world Google is the game to beat. Not in China. There Google runs far behind Baidu.com.
Kai-Fu Lee worries not. He declares that it’s only a matter of time before Google grabs the top spot. He said, ‘We don’t really obsess ourselves with the competition, but we certainly think a lot about our core strengths.’ And what are they? He said, ‘We just have better search.’
So far Baidu has over half of the Chinese search market. A recent survey by the China Internet Marketing Information Center put the Chinese company’s market share at 62 percent while Google has only 25 percent and it is slipping. It the past year it lost about eight percent of its market share.
Not only that but there are competitors. Some niche. Some not so niche — Alibaba, Tencent, Netease and Sohu. All of these intend to launch new search initiatives to compete with Baidu and Google.
Richard Ji, an analyst with Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong, said, ‘I believe that 2007 will be a watershed year. There will be a search war on a scale that we have never seen before.’ Given the circumstances that is a safe bet.
Kai-Fu Lee says that Google has struggled because the Chinese-language search was developed by just five Google programmers operating in the United States in Googletown in Mountain View (little mountain, no view).
Now the company has over 100 engineers in Beijing working on developing something that better suits the needs of local users. Kai-Fu Lee said, ‘Any imperfections that we may have had because of lack of resources are going to get fixed.’
It would be rude to point out that Google was started by two genius mathematicians and that throwing more and more resources at a problem is not a guaranteed way to get results.
Source: Business Week
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