Recently, I have been studying the mobile internet sector in China closely, and I have talked to most of the major players. Many people told me Alibaba is a player I should watch out for.
Although currently Alibaba Group has no substantial mobile business, it has huge ambition in the mobile internet sector, and has been quietly acquiring assets.
One of the key investment they have done so far is Guangzhou based UCWeb. UCWeb is the leading mobile web browser in China. It is the second most popular WAP application in China after Tencent’s QQ. (QQ has about 25% total WAP traffic, according to an internal report from China Mobile. UCWeb has about 6% and another 4% for its mobile video service, Uodoo.) UCWeb has about 60 millions visitor every month.
It has also tried to acquire “91 Assistant” from Fuzhou based NetDragon. “91 Assistant” is one of the most popular iPhone Apps in China. It is a mobile to PC software, which helps you to manage your phone. It also connects to a portal, which has over 20,000 jail broken iPhone Apps. It has over 200,000 daily visitors. However, after a closed to 6-month due-diligent process, the two companies could not reached an agreement. NetDragon found Alibaba’s terms were too harsh. NetDragon is currently raising fund from venture capitalists and it plans to spin out the 200-people mobile team soon.
An industry insider told me, Alibaba’s plan is to build a mobile portal, where everything you can see, either services or products, you can buy and pay by Alipay. The Group’s e-payment solution, Alipay, has dominated the PC internet world in China. Now, it wants to expand to the mobile world. But, so far, some industry players told me Alipay is still not very good for mobile payment.
Anyway, there is still time for Alibaba to gradually build its mobile kingdom. Most industry players think the real mobile internet revolution in China has not started yet. It might take another 2-5 years.