Tencent is to China today what Yahoo! was to North America in 1999. They’re huge when it comes to instant messaging, microblogging, and they even have a few portals up their sleeve. In other words, they’re massive. So what’s their mobile strategy then? Simple, really. Make Andoid apps available to those who already have Android devices, and for those who are looking to buy a new smartphone, just make a custom Android ROM that handset makers can slap on some hardware. We can’t make this stuff up. Tencent took Android, stripped out all of Google’s services, and then loaded it to the gills with their “QQ” branded equivalents. They have their own messaging app, email, browser, even a search engine called SOSO which copies Google’s layout to a T. Seriously, just look at it.
Now just because you made your own Android ROM doesn’t mean it’s going to take off, so that’s where Tianyu comes in. They’re going to release a smartphone called the “iQQ” (model number: W808) that runs Tencent’s custom ROM. For roughly $470 you’ll get an NVIDIA Tegra 2 clocked at 1 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, 4.3 inch 800 x 480 pixel screen, 5 megapixel camera, and a massive 2000 mAh battery. That’s pricey, but for those who are deeply entrenched into Tencent’s services, the iQQ is likely the perfect device out on the market.
The bigger question here is should other brands do the same thing? What’s stopping a company like Nike, BMW, or Facebook from simply leveraging the work Google has invested in and then offering a device that’s so tightly integrated with the products and services associated with their brand that said device just prints money? Barns and Noble does it with with Nook Tablet, Amazon does it with the Kindle Fire, are we at the beginning of a new era?
What do you think, should some brands create their own hardware versus making an app?
[Tencent CEO Pony Ma pictured above]