Microsoft to continue to partner with Baidu, following former VP Lu's move

Microsoft plans to seek continued partnership opportunities with Baidu following the move of Microsoft's former vice president Qi Lu to head up Baidu's AI and act as COO at the Chinese search giant.

In what seems to have been a surprise move to many in the industry, former Microsoft Applications and Services Group executive vice president Qi Lu is now group president and chief operating officer of internet search and services giant Baidu.

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Given how long it took Microsoft to provide a statement about his new role yesterday, January 17, I'd say Lu's decision to join Baidu was not expected -- other than possibly by CEO Satya Nadella, who may have known three weeks ago about Lu's plans, according to Recode.

Microsoft's official statement on Lu's departure, from a spokesperson:

"We want to thank Dr. Qi Lu for his great contributions to Microsoft during his eight years of service to the company and wish him the best of luck in his next endeavor."

Lu was not working for Baidu up until yesterday. Microsoft announced Lu was leaving the company on September 29 last year. Simultaneous with that announcement, Microsoft reorganized the team he had been heading, the Applications and Services Group, by splitting the Bing/Cortana group from the Office applications piece of the business, and moving that piece to a new combined AI and Research Group under Harry Shum, and promoting Rajesh Jha to run the applications part of the business.

Lu left Microsoft after eight years there to recover from "health conditions caused by a prior injury," (reportedly a biking accident) according to an email message to employees from Nadella. Once he recovered, Lu had agreed to be a personal advisor to Nadella and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Nadella also said at the time.

As far as I can tell, Lu never did any personal advising and instead jumped directly to Baidu, where he will be responsible for products, technology, sales, marketing, and operations, effective January 17. Lu will be key to Baidu's evolving AI strategy.

In spite of the seeming suddenness of Lu's move, Microsoft plans to continue to seek to partner with Baidu, moving forward, a spokesperson confirmed.

In the past, Microsoft and Baidu struck a deal to build a strategic partnership which involved Baidu's paid search listings appearing on search result pages of Microsoft's Chinese versions of MSN and Live Search.

More recently, the two companies partnered around Windows 10, with the pair building a "custom experience" for Baidu customers in China who wanted to upgrade to Windows 10. In China, Baidu.com would become the default home page and search engine on Windows 10's Edge browser, under the deal's terms. Baidu said it would provide "Windows 10 Express app" for installing Windows 10, along with Baidu Universal Windows Applications for search, video, cloud, and maps for Windows 10.

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