Tecent is internally testing Weiyun, a cloud-based system that allows you to view Weixin messages from not only your mobile, but also via a web and desktop client, reports Chinese tech blog 36kr. That would turn Weixin into a universally accessible messenger, similar to another famous Chinese product: QQ instant messenger, also by Tencent. So why would one company push two products with such overlapping functionality?
Weixin is for White-Collars
With Weixin, Tencent finally has a product for white-collars (50 million registered, 20 million actives), an objective that had eluded the firm for over a decade. We at TechRice thinks that’s a very big deal.
Simon Fong, CEO of Xueqiu, writes:
Tencent’s problem is that it’s very difficult for it to reach the highest-end users at all. At the very least, in some situations it’s embarrassing to share your QQ number (whether a user has one is besides the point, this is about social conventions). But now Tencent has a new product that is finally penetrating that market: Weixin Mobile IM. Look around you, aren’t all your fancy friends using Weixin too?
Yes, yes they are–all of my fancy Chinese friends are now using Weixin. A new friend of mine signs up for Weixin virtually every day now, and I’m always prompted to add them because the app scans my address book. One senior Chinese media executive told me that 800 of his 2000 contacts (undoubtedly a far fancier contact list than mine) are now using Weixin.
So while the there’s significant similarity with QQ IM in functionality, there’s significant difference in user demographics and brand positioning. The penguin is for no-collars, blue-collars, and white-collars, while Weixin is for white-collar elites.
The Weixin Lifestyle: From Product to Brand
In front of my apartment in Beijing’s Zhongguancun district, there’s a billboard with four characters: “微信 生活”. I suspect it’s the start of a major branding campaign and suite of products around the concept “Weixin Lifestyle.” As the Weiyun cloud project hints, I believe there are big plans for Weixin far beyond the mobile app.
There’s no mention of Tencent or QQ, and no penguins in sight. Weixin Lifestyle is the launch of a separate white-collar brand.
A number of Chinese techies have told me that Weixin has a great shot of succeeding internationally. I’m skeptical, as the product is still heavily dependent upon Tencent’s overall QQ social network for building its social graph, but a “China-plus” strategy of reaching those who want to talk with Chinese is achievable. It’s already a wildly popular way for young Chinese to keep in touch with their significant other when he/she goes to study abroad.
Resistance is Futile, But Investment is Profitable.
Tencent is a competitor to every Internet company in China. Its explosive entry into the white-collar space with Weixin makes it even more formidable. It’s ruinous for others trying to build a general mobile IM platform (sorry, TalkBox and Xiaomi’s MiLiao), and a serious threat for those targeting white-collars in general (looking at you, Sina).
Last week I spoke at the DB Access Conference by Deutsche Bank, a different crowd from my typical company of Zhongguancun techies. And the sentiment towards Tencent could not be more different: investors love Tencent, while entrepreneurs mostly hate it, out of equal parts anger and jealousy.
All hail the penguin, and its new white-collar prince, Weixin.
Disclosure: I was considering investing in Chinese tech stocks, including Tencent, but have decided against it, as it would complicate my role as a blogger on TechRice and other sites. If my policy changes, I promise to notify readers directly. I do consult from time to time with investors, offering my analysis of China’s consumer Internet.
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