googleart.jpgCDC,
the hyperactive Hong Kong-based software company, has done another deal
in the west, this time with Google, which should at least guarantee the
story gets picked up.

CDC's China.com
portal has formed a “strategic partnership” with the US search giant in
which Google will provide the technology to allow China.com's users to
search English and traditional Chinese content. Terms of the deal
weren't disclosed.

But does not Google already offer a search service in China? Too right, although Google.cn is known more for what it leaves out rather than what it includes — see this News.com story for the long-running controversy on Google's self-censorship in China.

According to the official release,
the deal between CDC and Google aims to generate “revenue
opportunities” for both companies. Now, Google's revenues were $6.1bn
last year and it owns almost 45% of the world's search market, so I
can't really see the paid search revenue generated by CDC's 5m daily
users making much of an impact on Google's top line.

By
contrast, China.com's 2005 turnover was just $50m so it could certainly
do with a uplift, but unless Google is being unusually generous with
its Chinese partner, I don't expect it will get much of one.

So
what's it all about? Strategic partnerships are a dime a dozen with
internet companies and it would be unwise to read too much into this
one.

Nevertheless, China is the Achilles Heel in Google's plans
for world domination so it is a market where it could do with a helping
hand.

Google was a latecomer to China and continues to lag
behind both Yahoo and Baidu, the home-grown rival. The latter's
aggressive marketing has made it far and away the leading search engine in China, according to a BusinessWeek article by veteran tech writer Bruce Einhorn.

The
Chinese search market is still small but it is growing fast and clearly
Google wants a larger piece of the growing pie. Last week it announced
it would create a third Chinese R&D centre and more than double the number of Chinese sites running Google advertising by the end of 2006.

Still,
China.com seems an odd choice to help advance Google's Chinese
ambitions. Its parent CDC, formerly known as Chinadotcom, was first to
jump aboard the China internet bandwagon. But in recent years
China.com's star has waned and Chinese net surfers opt for better-known
portals like Sohu, Sina and NetEase.

CDC has even considered
ditching its internet activities to better focus on the other legs of
its business, namely online games and enterprise software — more on
the latter in this earlier post.

Nevertheless,
China.com has considerable experience of China's internet market — it
was the first China internet company to get a Nasdaq listing — so I
suspect the deal is really to help Google to learn about Chinese
branding, content and advertising.

And if Google were to make CDC an offer for China.com, I'm sure the Hong Kong company would have little difficulty saying yes.

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