The crowded Kik-like service market is seeing fiercer competition as China Mobile, the largest operator in the world in terms of revenue and subscribers, announced releasing its own free text messaging product Feiliao (飞聊, means Flying Chatting in Chinese) on weibo.
According to the weibo post, Feiliao is based on Fetion, the largest and most profitable operator’s IM effort. Feiliao will support iOS, Android and Symbian with an imminent beta release.
As other Kik-like services, Feiliao will let users send free text messages for free, regardless what operators, mobile phones and mobile OS they are using.
This is interesting. When Kik first came out with a whopping 1 million users in 15 days after its debut, Ted Livingston claimed that Kik will “kill SMS” eventually. Then Kik clones sprang up in China, to name a few, Weixin(by Tencent), MiLiao (by Xiaomi Tech), Youni (by Shanda) and the lately Kouxin (口信，means oral message in Chinese, by Qihoo 360). People are speculating that how operator will react as those apps are undermining one of their largest profit channel: SMS. Especially in China, Chinese people have a craving for SMS with 825 billion text messages sent in 2010.
However, Chinese operator seems to take it amazingly well by adapting to the trends rather than stifling those services. China Unicom launched its free-text messaging service Wo You (沃友) couple weeks ago. Now it’s China Mobile’s turn with Feiliao. At present we have little knowledge regarding how much effort China Mobile will put into Feiliao nor do we know how determined China Mobile is to operate the service if by any chance it gets so popular that might even threaten its SMS business which is very profitable. Maybe let’s just wait and see if operator will kill SMS on its own, though this will be the most unlikely case for China Mobile or any operators.
So the paradox seems like a Sophie’s Choice. Just as we were wondering:
1. If operators operating Kik like services, they want it to be prevailing or not?
2. If the service appeals to customers, more and more people are using it, what about their fruitful SMS service?
Maybe China Mobile’s field trial will give us the answers to all those questions.