19 December 2018

Baidu new app platform could render Tencent upgrade futile

Internet behemoth Tencent (00700.HK) is a pioneer in many areas of the mobile internet era. Its mobile instant messenger WeChat and its mobile gaming platform are both champion products. However, when it comes to the app distribution business, things are different.

Tencent announced last week that it started to upgrade its app store platform or “Yingyongbao”{應用寶} to reinforce its mobile internet strategy.

Chief operating officer Ren Yuxin is hoping the upgrade could bring revenue of more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.65 billion) to third-party developers in the next two years. In 2011, Tencent started to open its application platforms to outside developers and in 2013, there were 10 major developing teams with combined annual income of about 1 billion yuan.

But this time, Tencent seems to be trailing in the race. Its upgraded app store platform could be too little too late in a fast changing market dominated by the number one player, Baidu.

While Tencent is trying to consolidate its app resources, Baidu is coming up with a game changer.

As of the end of 2013, the number of mobile applications in China surpassed one million. The figure implies that the Android applications market is entering a mature stage and growth is reaching a bottleneck.

Typically, only a handful of apps dominate the downloads. Loads of apps never get noticed. About 99.9 percent of apps accounted for 30 percent of the total download rate at most, according to media reports.

The problem of those forgotten apps is not always because they are not good enough but simply because customers may have never heard of them. Baidu’s Light App attempts to solve this problem, which may help stimulate app sales and expand the market.

This web apps function introduced in August has been designed to bypass the app stores and platforms to make finding app easier for anyone.

The “apps within an app”, or browser-like design, allows users to test a variety of apps just by downloading this one app, saving them hassles and memory space. Users can load the different apps without downloading them, which Baidu thinks is the future trend in the apps world.

Aspiring young talents, in particular, will get a better chance to have their products tried, raising the possibility of more hit products being created in the app market.

According to a report by information service platform EnfoDesk, as of the third quarter of last year, Baidu had the biggest share of China’s app distribution market at 40.6 percent, far exceeding those of some rivals such as 360 box and Wandoujia {豌豆莢}. The latter secured a US$120 million funding from Softbank this month.

Having acquired app store 91 Wireless last year, along with this innovative app distribution technology, Baidu continues to lead in this arena to no one’s surprise.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



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