Is Smart Wi-Fi Router the Next Big Thing in China?

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HiWiFi

Smart Wi-Fi router HiWiFi confirmed that it had risen some ten million dollars in Series A funding from Innovation Works and GGV Capital. It is rumored that famous Chinese angel investors, Zhou Hongyi and Lei Jun, and Baidu showed interest in it too.

The gadget caught our eye because of a built-in app that helps users in mainland China visit web services inaccessible here. More than 20 thousand pieces have reportedly been sold since July launch.

The funding will be used for product iteration and grabbing users, Wang Chuyun, founder of HiWiFi, told local media. (in Chinese) An updated product will be launched next month and the price will be lowered to appeal to users.

It will partner with Wandoujia on app distribution and integrate Internet services such as the Innovation Works-backed file transferring service. The company is also seeking cooperation with big Chinese Internet companies, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and the like.

Thus far it doesn’t sound like a product for a niche market, as we thought of it before, but an ambitious one that wants to enter as many Chinese families or other spaces as possible.

Some Chinese Internet companies are looking for the gateway-like business on mobile. On the Web, browser is considered such one where companies such as Qihoo won out in China market. Qihoo browsers successfully registered hundreds of millions of users and monetized the user base through display advertising, paid searches and revenue shares with third-party browser game developers.

But browser is much less relevant on mobile as visits to most used mobile services are but through apps. Some bet on app distributors, app stores or other apps or services that are able to push apps to users. Qihoo, Baidu, Wandoujia now are major players in this sector.

Router is the very gateway. Those companies also noticed smart router that can take control of Internet access and have impact on content consumption in families or working spaces. Qihoo released two wireless routers, one with an average size and the other is a dongle, about three months ago. Baidu followed suit with two me-too gadgets.

Before long, Kingsoft, Qihoo’s direct competitor, rolled out a WiFi service, with no need of hardware, and offered it for free. The only thing a user should do to launch the Kingsoft WiFi solution is to switch on the sharing function added to Kingsoft anti-virus service.

But all of them now are not so smart as HiWiFi. It is reported that Xiaomi is working on a smart router too. HiFiWi sees Xiaomi, not hardware startups or bigger Internet companies, as its direct competitor. Apart from smartphone which it started with, Xiaomi has launched a smart TV and is experimenting with a variety of smart devices.

Though Xiaomi wouldn’t ship all of them as its CEO Lei Jun said, it’s for sure that the company would like to reach everywhere possible to connect users to its content platform. Wang Chuyun thinks they are ahead of Xiaomi so far as MIUI, the custom Android operating system built in Xiaomi smartphones and smart TV, cannot beat their system in the router – HiWiFi’s team of 40 spent more than one year to develop the Linux-based system in the router.