UPDATE 1-Microsoft MSN China top exec to leave

* MSN China’s Vice President of sales to leave end March

* Microsoft to push search engine Bing
(Adds details and background)

By Melanie Lee

SHANGHAI, March 18 (BestGrowthStock) – A top executive for
Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O: ) MSN China will leave the joint
venture, Microsoft said on Thursday, in a setback as the firm
struggles to compete in China’s hotly contested social
networking space.

Xiao Chen, MSN China’s Vice-President of sales who has been
with the company since its inception, will leave at the end of
March to pursue his own start-up, a Microsoft spokeswoman told
Reuters.

MSN China, which was launched in 2005 with local partners,
is struggling to compete against QQ, a chat messaging and
social network operated by Tencent Holdings (0700.HK: ), China’s
most valuable Internet company.

MSN China ran into trouble late last year when its
microblogging site, Juku — created by an independent vendor —
was accused of copying another start-up. Microsoft subsequently
suspended the service.

The executive’s announced departure comes as major
technology firms await Google’s decision on whether to quit the
China market, the world’s largest Internet market by users at
384 million at the end of last year.[ID:nTOE62G031]

Google (GOOG.O: ) announced in January it may pull out of
China due to censorship concerns and after it suffered a
sophisticated hacking attack originating from the country.

For its part, software giant Microsoft is pinning its China
hopes on search engine Bing, currently a minnow in China’s 7.2
billion yuan ($1.1 billion) search market.

As signs mount that a Google pullout may be imminent,
Microsoft and local rival and search market leader Baidu Inc
(BIDU.O: ) are set to grab its market share, analysts have said.

Microsoft said earlier this month it will stick to its
strategy for China’s Internet search market regardless of the
outcome of Google’s high-profile spat with
Beijing.[ID:nTOE62406M] [ID:nTOE62406M]

Motorola Inc (MOT.N: ) said last week it has reached a deal
with Microsoft to put Bing search and mapping services on its
phones that use Google’s Android operating system.

Motorola said the partnership with Microsoft meant a Bing
bookmark and search widget would be loaded on cell phones,
starting in the coming weeks with phones in China.
[ID:nLDE62A01V]

Stock Market News

(Editing by Ken Wills and Valerie Lee)

UPDATE 1-Microsoft MSN China top exec to leave