Given the fast-changing internet environment, technology firms cannot afford to sit back and count on past successes to keep them ahead. Keeping up with the latest industry developments and tracking what your competitors are doing is an absolute must, even for established players. It is this fact that Baidu Inc. (BIDU.US) and AutoNavi Holdings Ltd. (AMAP.US) need to bear in mind now as Tencent Holdings (00700.HK) begins to beef up its location and street map service QQ Map.
Shenzhen-based Tencent, China’s largest internet firm, on Thursday launched its latest version of QQ Map, describing it as the next pillar product after the popular mobile instant messaging apps WeChat and QQ. With the service, QQ Map has come from behind as it takes on rival offerings from Baidu and AutoNavi — Baidu Map and Amap.
QQ Map has street view coverage of 100 key cities across China. In contrast, Amap can only cover 20 cities while Baidu will “soon” provide similar service for 30 cities, the 21st Century Business Herald reported. But broader streetscape is not the only edge that QQ Map can use to undercut its counterparts.
In what is perhaps a bigger strength, QQ Map can seamlessly dock to WeChat and QQ, which altogether have over 100 million active users daily on average. By migrating quickly to mobile devices, QQ Map is able to bypass the dominance of Baidu in PC-end search engine traffic.
Tencent has sound reason to move into internet map services. It will help the company foray into the fledgling but promising O2O (online-to-offline) market, in which Amap is the top player in cooperation with Alibaba Group, the number one e-commerce company in the country.
By combining wider coverage and real-time navigation function with the embedded mobile payment feature of WeChat or QQ, QQ Map can better guide users, who are often prospective consumers, to spend money in the Tencent-friendly street-side stores. That would help further cement the appeal of WeChat and QQ for social networking as well as for online marketing.
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