The globe's biggest internet players, Microsoft and Google, have fixed their gaze on the lucrative Chinese market.
US-headquartered software titan Microsoft says it has formed a 50/50 venture with the state-funded Shanghai Alliance Investment to launch its MSN China web portal later this year.
The company has also unveiled plans to acquire certain assets of TSSX, a Chinese mobile software and services company.
China is the second largest internet market in the world after the US. It had 94 million users at the end of 2004 and the figure is expected to grow to 134m by the end of this year.
Says David Cole, MSN svp: "The rapid growth in internet adoption and mobile device usage in China ... make this one of the most important new markets for MSN."
And Chuan Luo, MSN regional director for China, says the venture will mainly generate revenues through online advertising and wireless value-added services.
There is strict censorship of search engines in the country, although Google already accounts for around 20% of all searches by Chinese internet users.
The company aims to open an office later this year, most likely in Shanghai, and is also said to be forming a team to target corporate customers for advertising sales.
Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff