Jun 08, 2012 02:11 PM EDT
According to a new report, Apple is planning to add support for Baidu, China's largest search engine, to iPhones in China. Baidu accounts for as much as 80 percent of searches in China. Apple is expected to announce its plans with Baidu at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
Citing two sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, May 7, that Apple may announce the deal with China's largest search engine as soon as next week, at Apple's annual WWDC show which starts on June 11 in San Francisco. Google is expected to remain the default choice on the iPhone, but through this agreement users in China will also have the option to add Baidu as their default choice if they prefer to.
Bloomberg's report falls in line with a previous report back in March from Chinese news site Sina Technology News, claiming that Apple is planning to add Baidu as an iOS search engine option.
China has become a key market for Apple, and the addition of Baidu would help the Cupertino, California tech giant to expand services and increase sales in the country. China is the largest mobile phone market, and accounted for 20 percent of Apple's impressive sales last quarter. Back in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said demand for Apple products in China, particularly for the iPhone, has been "staggering." The CEO added that there is "a lot more opportunity" in the Asian nation.
Baidu is currently the dominant search engine in China, with 78.5 percent of the Chinese search market in the first quarter, compared to Google's 16.6 percent, reported the Chinese research company Analysis International. With such a clear lead, the addition of Baidu will likely be great news for users in the country. iPhone and iPad users in China can currently get Baidu on their devices by downloading it as a separate application, but Google is the default search engine. According to Bloomberg, users will now have the option to set Baidu as their primary search engine, although Google will still be the default setting on Apple's iOS devices.
Apple's move to add Baidu may be interpreted as another way to reduce the company's reliance on rival Google. Apple is also reportedly planning to lose Google Maps from its next-generation iOS 6 mobile operating system, and instead incorporate its own 3D mapping technology. This move is also expected to be announced at WWDC.