Aiming at Google, Apple to make Baidu default iOS search choice for Chinese

Citing “two people familiar with the matter”, Bloomberg reports that Apple is said to add Baidu as a default iOS search engine in China. Since Baidu commands a lion’s share of search queries in the world’s biggest smartphone market, this decision is thought to have potentially serious repercussions for Google’s biz in China…

According to Bloomberg, Apple is set to announce this development at its annual WWDC developers conference, which kicks of with a keynote next Monday.

The agreement to add Baidu, China’s largest search engine, to the lineup of Web tools on the iPhone could be announced as early as next week, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.

As Apple is fighting Google on multiple dimensions now, the move could be deciphered as an attempt Google’s share in the 1.33 billion people market of China, where Baidu dominates with an astounding 80 percent share of search queries.

True, users will still be able to choose Google, Bing or Yahoo! over Baidu in iOS Settings, but since Baidu, a local search engine, will come enabled by default on devices sold in China, many people won’t bother.

Note that China has recently become the world’s biggest smartphone market. The country accounted for one in five dollars of Apple’s first-quarter revenues.

Apple’s smartphone share in China is now just shy of 20 percent, though Apple is still looking to expand its carrier relationships with a rumored inclusion of China Mobile, the world’s biggest telco.

It is also gearing up to launch the new iPad amid an ongoing legal dispute over the iPad moniker with bankrupt display maker Proview.

Cupertino is expanding on its retail presence in China as well, which currently includes five flagship stores. Two more stores are set to open in the cities of Chengdu and Shenzen where iPads and iPhones are being made, with plans to open about 25 more stores by the end of calendar 2011.

As you know, a friction the search giant caused by entering the smartphone market with its Android software has turned the once cozy Apple-Google relationship upside down.

Apple is also set to ditch Google Maps with a rumored in-house mapping solution focused on lively three-dimensional representation of the surrounding buildings and terrain.

The rumor was enough to trigger a panic button at Google, which held a hastily organized press conference yesterday to announce Google Maps enhancements focused on a brand new 3D view, with vague release dates.

Cupertino also runs its own mobile advertising platform called iAd and has removed an option to publish clips to YouTube from Mountain Lion’s QuickTime program.

It’s increasingly becoming a possibility that Google could regret its decision to take Apple head on.