The engine is already causing headaches for Microsoft in China. There aren't any problems about lewd pictures or politically-insensitive content. No, "Bing" is just a stupid name for a Chinese website.
From The Wall St. Journal:
After a brief hiatus last week, software giant Microsoft’s Bing search engine is back online in China.This is a pretty funny scenario. It reminds me a lot of the classic example of the Chevy Nova trying to be sold in Latin America. In that case, "no va" loosely means can't go. The story I remember is that this naming-flub doomed the car's sales in Spanish-speaking countries.
Microsoft launched a Chinese version of Bing on June 1 at cn.bing.com, marking the first time the company has offered a Web product specifically targeted at the 298 million Web users in mainland China. But unlike its American counterpart (and like many of the other international versions of Bing), Chinese Bing is still a bit of a shell at this point, without all of the handy features that are available on the U.S. search engine.
And in China, Microsoft prefers not to call it “bing,” since that sound can have several meanings in Mandarin, depending on the tone and character associated with it. For example, this word: 病. Pronounced bing (fourth tone), it means “sickness” or “to be ill,” something most people would prefer to avoid. Other “bings” mean ice, soldier and pancake.
The Chinese version has thus been named “biying” (必应) which means “must respond/answer” and which Microsoft is marketing it as a“decision engine”– something that will provide information to assist Internet users with their decision-making processes.
It turns out that this Nova situation isn't completely true though. I just did a Google search on it and found this article from About.com:
Chances are you've heard about how Chevrolet had problems marketing the Chevy Nova automobile in Latin America. Since no va means "it doesn't go" in Spanish, the oft-repeated story goes, Latin American car buyers shunned the car, forcing Chevrolet to embarrassedly pull the car out of the market.So maybe the Chevy Nova in Latin America isn't completely analagous here. But it is in the same ballpark.
Chevrolet's woes are often cited as an example of how good intentions can go wrong when it comes to translation. There are literally thousands of references to the incident on the Internet, and the Nova example has been mentioned in textbooks and often comes up during presentations on cultural differences and advertising.
But there's one major problem with the story: it never happened. As a matter of fact, Chevrolet did reasonably well with the Nova in Latin America, even exceeding its sales projections in Venezuela. The story of the Chevy Nova is a classic example of an urban legend, a story that is told and retold so often that it is believed to be true even though it isn't. Like most other urban legends, there is some element of truth in the story (no va indeed means "it doesn't go"), enough truth to keep the story alive. And, like many urban legends, the story has the appeal of showing how the high and mighty can by humiliated by stupid mistakes.
I'm not sure what Chinese people are going to think of the change from "Bing" to "Biying." The web address is still going to be cn.bing.com, so it's not as if people will be typing "Biying." I could see confusion or mocking of Microsoft over this name.
The Wall St. Journal article also goes on to discuss some other problems with the site. Again, it's not being threatened by the Great Firewall or anything. It's just that it's not a very good site or search engine. And the search market on the Chinese internet is already firmly established. So an inferior product just isn't going to cut it.
I don't really feel sorry for Microsoft blowing a big opportunity here. I haven't been a fan of the company for some time now. I bought a Mac Book a couple years ago and would never consider buying a PC again. Apple OS X is so much better than Windows, in my opinion. In addition to operating systems, Microsoft has also fallen behind with its search (MSN and Bing), its web browser (Internet Explorer), and its email (Hotmail).
Office is still pretty good though. I'll give Microsoft that.
Maybe one day 必应 will be big in China. I doubt it though. It's probably going to, instead, be another symptom of Microsoft's 病.