BEIJING--Every American company wants to expand into China, but so far none that has is doing that well. Baidu, the Chinese search engine, has a huge lead over Google. Amazon bought a growing local online bookseller to get its business going, but customer service and other issues caused sales to slow.
So what do people here think of U.S. companies? I decided to ask the CNET staff in China and here's what they said:
Apple: The iPod, although it costs a lot by local standards, is very popular, particularly with young consumers. Still, Steve Jobs has never visited China and that rankles people. The view is that he just views China as a market. The iPhone could do well, although it's expensive. Phones that imitate some of its style are already coming out.
Microsoft: Like Americans, Chinese consumers aren't really fond of the big M. For one thing, the software is expensive. A legal copy of Windows XP costs around 1,000 RMB (or $130). That's a monthly salary for some people. Plus, the Chinese think the Zune is ugly. MSN, however, is somewhat popular. The diplomatic overtures that Microsoft has made--Bill Gates inviting China's president to his house and Microsoft's investments in local companies--have helped.
Qualcomm: it's the place everyone wants to work. What? Qualcomm employees get their own offices and the offices are located in the Kerry Center, Beijing's most prestigious address. China Mobile and pretty much any other wireless company is a premier landing.
Google: If you can't land a job in cellular, Google will do. Google, however, isn't succeeding as many thought it might: the search giant only has about 30 percent of the market. Baidu came from nowhere by offering search for MP3s, which then helped them in other areas. Google needs to expand its services. Google's hiring of Kai Fu Lee, heralded in the States as a significant event, hasn't had much of an impact here. Most people shrugged at the name.
YouTube: Everyone knows the Google division, but it's not so popular. It's not in Chinese. Besides, video sites have cropped up like mad.
Yahoo: The company is kind of marginal, even though Jerry Yang is Chinese. People instead wanted to know if Americans knew much about Robin Li, founder of Baidu.
Dell: Dell has done well here, but now it has a reputation for poor customer service and low quality. But the prices are low. Dell also didn't do great PR here on the battery recall: the average buyer thinks the problem was Dell's notebooks, not Sony's battery.
American TV: Bring it on. 24, Lost and Prison Break are all big and viewers know how to get around government restrictions. Such restrictions may loosen up, however. The government is contemplating plans that would let racier content in legally, but only for certain age groups.
Sony: Good products, but expensive.
IBM: Boring. We truly do live in a global village.