Search giant Baidu owns roughly 87% of of the huge Chinese market, and according to rumors, Apple could be planning to add support for their service to a future version of iOS. Sina Tech is reporting that, according to their "knowledgable sources", Baidu integration could come as early as next month. Tech in Asia translates and encapsulates:
Apparently, Baidu’s cloud and mobile chief Li Mingyuan hinted at this during the launch of Baidu’s cloud storage service last week, saying that the company already had a comprehensive cooperation agreement with Apple in China.
iOS currently has Google as the default search engine, with options to switch to Yahoo! and Bing in the Safari Settings. There's been no official word from either Baidu or Apple on the matter, but OS X Mountain Lion contains expanded Chinese web services so iOS adding one more search engine, especially one as big as Baidu, in a market as important to Apple as China, doesn't seem far-fetched.
Indeed, China currently tops the charts when it comes to iOS device activations, recently blowing past the US. Even though Apple still trails Samsung, Apple has increasingly stressed the growth of their retail presence and product adoption in China. Apple CEO Tim Cook has placed China ahead of Brazil and Russia on Apple's priority list, saying demand in China has been staggering and off the charts. Apple has even reportedly been working to help better support gray-market iPhones on China's largest carrier, China Mobile.
If accurate, it would also likely need to be part of an iOS 5.1.x or even iOS 5.2 update.
Whether or not this has anything to do with Apple's increasingly tense relationship with Google is uncertain, but putting Baidu on iOS, even if Google retains default status, could further erode what percentage of the search Google has managed to