Citing two people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Apple plans to add Baidu as a search option for iPhones in China. The addition is part of an effort to broaden services and increase sales in the country, which has quickly become an important part of Apple's continued growth.
Baidu is responsible for about 80 percent of Internet searches in China. It is expected that Google will remain the default choice on the iPhone, but users in China will now have the option to make Baidu the default if they sho choose.
The addition of Bing would be similar to a change Apple made in 2010, when iOS 4 added Microsoft Bing as a new option for the default search engine on iPhone and iPad. Users can also select Yahoo for their search results, in addition to Google, the default option.
Rumors first cropped up in March of this year that Apple planned to change the default iPhone search engine from Google to Baidu. An executive with the Chinese search company said that Baidu had "reached a comprehensive cooperation agreement" with Apple.
Apple's upcoming OS X Mountain Lion Mac operating system will feature support for a variety of Chinese Internet services, including Safari search using Baidu. Other services that will be added are Mail, Contact and Calendar support for QQ, 163, and 126, Sheet SHaring support for video services Youku and Tudou; and Twitter-like microblogging support for Sina weibo.
China has become a region of focus for Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who said in January that the nation's demand for the Apple products, particularly the iPhone, has been "staggering."