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Chinese search engine Baidu coming to iPhone

Apple is planning to add support for the search engine Baidu to iPhones in China, according to a new report.

Bloomberg, citing two people with knowledge of the matter, reported on Thursday that Apple may announce the agreement with Baidu, China's largest search engine, as early as next week. The deal could be unveiled at Apple's annual World Wide Developer's Conference, kicking off in San Francisco on 11 June.

The rumour corroborates a March report from Chinese news site Sina Technology News that claimed Apple is planning to integrate Baidu as an iOS search engine option.

The deal with Baidu is said to be part of Apple's efforts to broaden service and increase sales in China, the largest mobile phone market. China accounted for 20 per cent of Apple's sales last quarter, and the company's CEO Tim Cook said there is "a lot more opportunity" in the Asian nation.

The move will likely be a welcome change for users in the country, as Baidu currently dominates the search market in China. Baidu held 78.5 per cent of the Chinese search market in the first quarter, compared to just 16.6 per cent for Google, according to the Chinese research company Analysis International.

Users in China can currently access Baidu on their iPhones and iPads by downloading it as a separate application.

According to Bloomberg, customers will now have the option to select Baidu as their primary search engine, though Google will remain the default setting on iOS devices.

Regardless, the move to add Baidu may be yet another way Apple is looking to decrease its reliance on rival Google. The Cupertino tech giant is also reportedly planning to ditch Google Maps, and incorporate its own 3D-mapping technology into its next-generation iOS 6 mobile OS, a change that is also expected to be unveiled at WWDC.