It looks like Microsoft isn't going to defy Google and Baidu and achieve a great victory in China anytime soon. Three and a half months after it began, a partnership involving Bing and a search engine owned by Alibaba has already ended.
To be fair, little is known about the situation, and it could have been someone at Microsoft who pulled the plug. The comments of one Microsoft representative hint that a corporate memo didn't exactly go around, however.
Owen Fletcher reported, "Pilot cooperation between Microsoft Corp.'s Bing search engine and Alibaba Group search website Etao has ended, a spokeswoman for a Microsoft joint venture in China said Monday."
Then Fletcher continued, "The spokeswoman for Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology Co., a Microsoft joint venture that operates Bing in China, said she was unsure when the cooperation ended and called it 'uncertain' whether it would be restored."
That's less than encouraging news for Microsoft supporters, since a different representative labeled China "the most important strategic market for Microsoft" in late 2009, and Steve Ballmer didn't back down during the Google hacking brouhaha.
On the bright side, Bing remains in beta in China, so it's not as if Microsoft has already put lots of time and energy into making the venture succeed.