Tough luck, Google: Maps and Search are losing market share in China

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It seems clear which direction Google Maps and Search is heading in China: down.

In the search game, Chinese traffic stats company CNZZ has calculated the impact of software company Qihoo’s controversial new search engine in the China market, and reckons that it has grabbed the second spot with nearly 10 percent market share. This puts Qihoo’s So.com search engine way behind market leader Baidu, but ahead of Sogou (7.83 percent), and fourth-placed Google (4.72%).

Qihoo’s gains came from both Baidu and Google, which both dropped slightly since Qihoo’s 360 Search hit the scene in August. It’s no surprise that Qihoo has vaulted into second place, as several sources said it had done so in just its first week, but it’s good to have this data from CNZZ to paint a broad picture of how the landscape has changed.

But Qihoo will likely find it hard to grow more. Though it’s very clever in terms of making use of its web portal’s great volume of traffic, it’ll need to seriously innovate in search technology in order to dazzle new users. Qihoo’s CEO Zhou Hongyi has said that he’s aiming for 15 to 20 percent market share in this space in China. Baidu’s shares have dropped in recent months as analysts worry about the threat from Qihoo.

As for Google, it’s a double-dose of gloomy China news for the search giant, as new stats for Q3 2012 for mobile maps app market share in the country show Google Maps getting even more lost amidst strengthening local competition. It lost nearly half its market share and slipped to sixth position — that’s down from second place in Q2.

The fall of the Google Maps app sees it leapfrogged this quarter by Baidu Maps, Mapbar, Tiger Maps, and Sogou Maps. Google now has, according to this data from Analysis International, 9 percent share of the mobile mapping market in China, down from 17.5% in the previous quarter. This data covers all smartphone platforms, but not feature phone OSes such as Symbian S40. We put all that into a new pie chart for Q3 2012:

China Mobile map app market share 2012 Q3

After earlier gradual drops, it’s not clear why the Google Maps app suddenly lost half of its share in just a few months. There might be no single reason. While Android is booming in China, various localized flavours of Google’s mobile OS don’t come pre-installed with Google Maps, so Google’s mapping product doesn’t necessarily get to ride that wave of smartphone popularity here. Plus, the website version of Google Maps is partially blocked by the Great Firewall, which might give some consumers the idea that Google’s product is faulty or slow.

The other foreign competitor in this sector, Nokia’s Ovi Maps, had a bad quarter too, dropping from 7.3 to 5.1 percent share. Autonavi is stagnant at the top, and Baidu’s oft-updated maps app is growing slowly but surely.

If you’re looking for Apple Maps that appeared recently in iOS6, it’s too early to figure in the chart for Q3 which runs from July to October. But clearly it has some very strong local competition to deal with, though Apple’s China maps might be boosted by being sourced from market leader Autonavi.

This article is based on two stories by Steven Millward, which originally appeared on Tech in Asia and were published with permission.

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