Microsoft stepped up promotion of Bing in China with the launch of a Web services platform for mobile phones this week, a possible step toward challenging the dominance of Google and Baidu.com in the country.
The Microsoft portal, an effort to spur use of its services in a market crowded by local competitors, offers downloads of mobile clients for Bing and Windows Live Messenger, along with instructions on how to use Microsoft services, including Hotmail, from a mobile phone.
Bing has not caught on in China and Microsoft has done little to promote it in the country. However, Bing, launched in June, has grown quickly in the U.S. and attracted about 9 percent of online searches there last month, according to Internet monitoring companies.
China's online search market is dominated by local player Baidu, with Google in a distant second place. Baidu and Google together account for as much as 95 percent of online searches done in China, leaving Yahoo, a range of local search engines, and any new players like Bing to compete for the remaining slice of the market.
The Bing mobile client lets users search for local information such as maps, restaurant locations and weather forecasts. Microsoft "will continue to strengthen and expand the service scope of its mobile Internet products," the company said in a statement.
Bing has strong potential but will face difficulty competing with Baidu and Google in the near term, said Ben Cavender, senior analyst at China Market Research Group in Shanghai.
While Baidu and Google have well-established search services for free music downloads that keep Chinese users coming back, Microsoft so far has done little to localize Bing, Cavender said.
Bing did not make a list of China's top 10 most-visited search engines in August, as posted on the Web site of local online traffic analyzer CR-Nielsen.