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Microsoft teams with Baidu to boost Windows 10 upgrades in China

China's biggest search engine will show its 600 million active users a "Windows 10 Express" install button -- and become the default search option as part of the deal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With a population of over 1.3 billion, China is the world's largest country -- but it's also one of the toughest for a foreign company to penetrate. Microsoft, keen to spread Windows 10 through the People's Republic, is pairing with Baidu, China's most popular search engine, to help speed up the transition, the US software giant announced on Thursday.

There are hundreds of millions of Windows users in China, but only around 10 million of them have upgraded to the latest version of the operating system, Microsoft says. To help boost those numbers, Baidu will provide a "Windows 10 Express" install option for its 600 million active users.

In return for this service, Baidu will be made the default search engine and homepage for Windows Edge, the operating system's official Web browser. It will also power native Windows apps such as Search, Maps and Cloud.

The deal means that Microsoft will forgo using Bing, its own search engine, in China -- making it the latest sacrifice a Western company has made to operate in the country. Google, for example, is making similarly tough decisions as it hopes to soon re-enter the growing Chinese market with a heavily censored Play Store, having in 2010 pulled most of its services out of the country.

It's also not the first partnership Microsoft has made with local powerhouses. In March, it was announced that Xiaomi, China's largest smartphone manufacturer, will allow users of its latest Android-powered Mi smartphones to switch to Microsoft's Windows 10 mobile operating system.

In the same month, Windows teamed up with Tencent, developers of China's ubiquitous WeChat messenger, to bring popular online multiplayer game League of Legends to Windows 10.

Late last month the Microsoft said that Windows 10 was operating on over 75 million devices around 192 countries.