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Microsoft strikes deal with China's Baidu, gets a chance to upgrade more than half a billion PCs to Windows 10

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 28, 2015
But gives up something big in return: Bing as the default search within Edge browser.

windows 10 backdrop hero art logo
Credit: Mark Hachman

Microsoft last Wednesday said it had struck a deal with China's Baidu, best known to Westerners as the country's largest search provider, to push Windows 10 to China's massive consumer market.

For its part, Baidu will use its own distribution channel, including an application labeled "Windows 10 Express," to offer consumers the official Windows 10 upgrade download. Also, Baidu has committed to crafting "universal" Windows apps -- those that run on all forms of Windows 10, albeit after some tweaking to finesse the differences between Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile -- for search, video, maps and online storage. Of the latter, Baidu offers 2TB of free cloud storage space, double what Microsoft gives its best customers, consumers who subscribe to Office 365.

In return for promoting Windows 10 to China's consumers, Baidu gets pride-of-place in Edge, the OS's default browser. " will become the default homepage and search for the Microsoft Edge browser in Windows 10," wrote Yusuf Mehdi, the head of marketing for the Windows group, on a Wednesday blog.

Bing is normally Edge's default search engine, as it is for other forms of search within Windows 10, including the OS's baked-in local-and-Web search tool, and more importantly to Microsoft long-term, 10's Cortana digital assistant.

Baidu and win10
When users search for 'Windows 10' on China's Baidu engine, they see a banner pitching the free Windows 10 upgrade, one component of the new Microsoft-Baidu partnership.

Bing will remain the search provider for Windows 10 in general, as well as for Cortana.

Wednesday's announcement followed other China moves Microsoft made public in March. Then, Microsoft touted deals with several major Chinese companies to distribute Windows 10 upgrades, including computer maker Lenovo; Qihu 360, a Chinese security firm also known for its 360 Secure Browser; and China's biggest social network, Tencent.

The upgrade partnerships, boosted by last Wednesday's Baidu announcement, show the lengths to which Microsoft will go to convince China's Windows users -- many who run illegal copies of the OS -- to get legit with Windows 10.

Microsoft has made some progress already. "We're off to a great start in China," Mehdi claimed, citing the earlier partnerships with Lenovo, Qihu 360 and Tencent.

"Great" is in the eyes of the beholder, of course. According to Baidu, which tracks the operating systems that power the devices reaching its search engine, Windows 10 accounted for just 1.1% of all personal computer OSes last month. That was significantly less than the global average: U.S. analytics company Net Application estimated Windows 10's user share as 5.2% for August. But it was larger than Baidu's measurement of 0.8% for Windows 7 in January 2010, three-plus months after the operating system's debut.


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