I would wager a bet that Pony Ma values Weixin now more than QQ.
Weixin was launched at the beginning of last year. It has much less users than QQ and Tencent Weibo, and it hasn’t brought Tencent any income. In an organizational adjustment of Tencent this May, all services of Tencent were categorized into six groups; but there was no mention of Weixin in the adjustment.
On July 19th, Weixin for iPhone made two important updates: video calling and web Weixin features, where users can chat with friends on web pages. What this points to is that now Weixin has every function of mobile QQ, while mobile QQ doesn’t have the same functions as Weixin. Many people believe it merely means Weixin exceeds QQ in function, not that it is more important than QQ, but they are mistaken. Weixin is the most important product for Tencent. This can be explained by three aspects: mobile phones, users and platforms.
Mobile phones have brought in greater chances for many companies. Compared with computers, mobile phones are more linked with the user rather than simply the tools of users. Still, traditional Internet companies have rarely succeeded with mobile products. Weixin is different. It’s a pure mobile application; all that flows from Weixin involves mobile phones. Weixin has been a terrific way for Tencent to enter the mobile industry.
Tencent has long been troubled by the fact that QQ is popular with young people, but MSN is more popular in offices. Weixin, on the other hand, aims at all kinds of users.
Weixin is an adaptive platform. If you have ever used it, you probably noticed that it aggregates several product features into one. Whenever a great product comes out–for example Kik, Instragram and Path– Weixin can imitate those product functions incredibly well in short order.
This April, Weixin launched an open platform, aiming to bring users more Weixin-based applications. If things continue this way, Weixin will be as popular on mobiles as QQ is on PCs.
In the face of smartphones and mobile Internet, many traditional Internet companies are trying to enter the industry by manufacturing mobile phones or making customized mobiles. They wish to strengthen the control over users by banding software with hardware, just as Apple does. What they overlook is that Apple products are special. Users are willing to follow Apple in its software and hardware. Furthermore, the iPhone operating system is much more secured than Android. Users will update their ROM with third-party software if the provided Android system isn’t good enough. So for traditional Internet companies, the key point is to perfect the users’ experience around products in order to attract and retain users.
Tencent has considered making customized mobile phones but ultimately decided against it. Weixin is an excellent product for Tencent and the right way to go. It is a product which users can’t stop using.
Translated from the Chinese original by Stella Wang (from Sina Tech/CBNWeekly)
Edited by Matt Johnson