Could Bing Become Victor As Google Plays 'Big Trouble In Little China?'
As the Battle of the Internet rages on between Google and China over censorship issues, and they redirect their search function from China proper (google.com.cn) to Hong Kong (Google.com.hk), could Bing end up being the Search Engine of choice by default? Acting like its own self-proclaimed sovereign nation, Google has taken a course with this superpower than some countries would never have entertained. Could this principled position cause Google to hand over its territorial rights to its US competitor?
Google stopped censoring its Chinese search engine and moved the service to Hong Kong, where the Internet isn't under China's control. However, It's not probable that the majority of the 140 million Google.com.cn users will stick with the new service at Google.com.hk, because many of its results are now blocked by the Chinese government's own network-level censorship system, known as the "Great Firewall of China."
Microsoft's Bing could use this opportunity to leverage its Internet resources in China to fast track the availability of bing.cn and seize market share. Microsoft stands to win by adding more yuan to its coffers, while Google could lose market share in addition to revenues. Many see it as self-interest versus principle. Others note if you don't bank your principle, you won't earn any interest.
Motorola has already replaced Google's search on Android phones in China with Bing because of the uncertainty surrounding Google's fate in the country. Google stock shares have lost nearly 6 percent of their value since the company said in January that it might pull out of China - while during the same period the Nasdaq 100 Index rose by nearly 5 percent.
CNN has reported that Microsoft's Bing will not follow Google out of China. Executives have made that clear. "But will they take the high road or the low road in their quest to win a bigger piece of a China's fast-growing Internet market?" Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, confirmed in an interview with the state-controlled China Daily last week that Bing, which now has less than 1 percent of Chinese market share, "is committed to stay." He chided Google for its lack of experience in China compared with Microsoft's 20-year presence.
The bigger problem with Bing winning in China is it just might have to sacrifice its dignity to do it. Presently anyone that wants to do business in China has to conform to the country's censorship rules. If Bing fills the open void that Google creates by departing, it may get swallowed up in the wake of disdain in the court of public opinion.
As the spotlight shifts from the Google's "Don't be Evil" precept to Microsoft's position to abide by China's rulings, it might make Bing appear as a puppet of the state. And while this might be a cunning marketing strategy to gain market share in the short-term, in the long-haul they may come off looking opportunistic and Machiavellian. Having earned points as the under-dog and the 'little engine that could,' I don't know if Microsoft is willing to trade in its 'good-guy' global persona for the Dark Side. Your thoughts?