Six months ago, we reported on a power struggle within Microsoft between the team that makes Windows and the team that oversees Bing and other online services.
At the time, we reported that Terry Myerson — the Windows chief — had won.
The MSN group, which used to be part of Qi Lu’s online services team, is now part of the Windows team.
That’s important because there’s a years-long battle within Microsoft over the default home page in Microsoft’s web browser — the entryway to the internet for hundreds of millions of people. That spot had always gone to MSN. With Myerson in charge, there was a chance that the default spot would go to other things, like deals that promoted Windows 10 in some way.
Today, we got more evidence that Windows has taken the reins. This afternoon, Microsoft announced a big deal with Chinese internet company Baidu, where Baidu will provide an easy way for customers to download a legal, licensed version of Windows 10.
This is vital to Microsoft, which wants Windows on 1 billion computers by 2018. It’s also important because historically, a lot of computers in China were sold with pirated or phony versions of Windows. This will be the genuine artifact, and Microsoft will make money from it.
What does Baidu get in return?
These Windows computers will have Baidu as their default search engine instead of Microsoft’s Bing, and Baidu.com as their default home page on the Edge browser (which has replaced Internet Explorer as the default browser) instead of MSN.
This isn’t completely unprecedented. PC makers are generally free to set their own default home pages, search engines, and other software, depending on which third parties pay them the most.
But this is the first time we can recall where Microsoft itself agreed to give the spot to somebody else.
This is more evidence of Satya Nadella’s common-sense approach, where Microsoft is willing to throw out the old ways of doing things. Instead of stubbornly clinging to an all-Microsoft-products-all-the-time approach, Microsoft will partner where it makes sense to promote the products that are most strategically important.
This doesn’t mean that Bing has lost importance at the company. Bing still powers the internal Windows search function — including in China — and Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant software.
But when it comes down to selling ads on MSN and Bing versus selling Windows, there’s really no decision at all.
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