On September 27, Xiaomi, the smartphone maker and Android-based service provider, announced to remove all the apps by Qihoo from Xiaomi App Store, the built-in Android app store in Xiaomi smartphones, for it was found that a push notification sent to users of 360 Mobile Assistant, an app by Qihoo for users to download and manage mobile apps, suggest them uninstall the Android-based Xiaomi App Store.
Later on the same day, Baidu issued a statement accusing Qihoo of doing the same thing to Baidu Maps, planning to sue Qihoo.
Qihoo responded later saying it is a new feature that reminds users to remove pre-installed apps (statement in Chinese) — it asks users to root Android devices before removing those apps. Qihoo’s explanation is many pre-installed apps are seldom launched by users and it’s up to users to decide which ones to uninstall. It added that some pre-installed apps spam users with push notifications, or even steal user privacy.
Pre-installation is one of the major channels for Chinese app developers to reach end-users. Developers would work with smartphone manufacturers, distributors, software-related service providers or even smartphone repair shops to have users’ phones installed with their apps. There’s few smartphone sold in China market without any third-party apps pre-installed.
Zhou Hongyi, CEO of Qihoo, claimed 360 Mobile Assistant was the largest Android app distributor in China when commenting Baidu’s acquiring 91 Wireless. Qihoo has successfully channeled users from PC-based huge user base to its mobile products which have more than 300 million users.
But local companies don’t buy Qihoo’s idea. Lenovo, the Chinese PC and phone maker, joined Xiaomi that removed all Qihoo apps from its own app store. In the statement issued on September 28, Lenovo said push notifications by Qihoo were confusing and disturbing to users.
The reasons that local companies immediately became angry with Qihoo include 1) Qihoo had a bad record in application distribution, and 2) Qihoo’s mobile apps push content to users too. Zhou and his team are notorious troublemakers.
3721, a real-name website search service the team built before Qihoo, was known for making the browser plugin uninstallable with average users after it started competing with Baidu and CNNIC. It is speculated that Qihoo, positioning as an anti-malware service, keeps telling its users to uninstall products by competitors in sectors including anti-virus, browser, app distribution and so on. Kingsoft sued Qihoo, accusing it of telling users to uninstall the anti-virus product and browser by the company.
It seems Baidu, the company that has only excelled in search, cannot be a direct competitor to Qihoo. It was reported that Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, rejected a cooperation proposal from Qihoo’s Zhou Hongyi years back, for Li thought 3721, the real-name search service, would eventually evolved to become a general search service. He was right. After only one year since the launch, Qihoo’s So.com has gained about 18% of China search market by changing the default search engine in the Qihoo browsers. Now to defend itself, Baidu has rolled out anti-virus and 360 Mobile Assistant-style services.
Qihoo is also unliked by companies who are not its direct competitors. Back in 2010, the company denounced Tencent for keeping track of users’ conversations on the QQ IM and suggested its own users replace Tencent’s with Qihoo’s in-house developed instant messaging application. Tencent then decided its products wouldn’t be compatible with Qihoo’s any longer and notified users to choose between the two. The dispute was settled with interference from Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Only a couple of days after Tencent, Sohu and Sogou announced the strategic investment, Sogou filled a lawsuit against Qihoo accusing the latter of misleading Qihoo 360 security users to change their default browser from Sogou Browser to the Qihoo’s.
To this day, the majority of Qihoo’s partners, apart from advertisers, game developers or other business partners who are counting on traffic on the platform, are those Qihoo or Mr. Zhou has invested in.
Qihoo always claims their ultimate goal is providing unbeatable user experience. It’s hard to say Qihoo will be pulled down so long as hundreds of millions of Chinese users are fine with products by the company and those push notifications.