Chinese mobile browser brand UCWeb announced last month that it was developing browsers for PC and Smart TV and would launch them in the coming March or April (Update: The PC browser is launched on April 10, 2014.).
No questions for the Smart TV part, but it’s interesting to hear the company who took pride in being able to foresee, with mobile-only browsers, the bloom of mobile Internet many years ago. Isn’t it that now it is prime time for mobile services? Think about WeChat, mobile games and m-commerce. Mobile monetization hasn’t really taken off yet in China market.
But why would UC Web do so? Because mobile browser is irrelevant? UB Web may argue, “We’re doing fine that we have hundreds of millions installs, being the No.1 in market share not only in China but also in India. We’ve been making money through search advertising and other formats of ads, mobile gaming and so on.”
Those monetization approached by UC Web are what Chinese web browsers have been making money from. The overall business model, to some extent, was created by Qihoo 360, who is so far the biggest winner in web browser business in China.
But Mobile browser can hardly be as important as it is for users to access all web content as web browsers. Mobile apps, mostly native apps, are what users spend time on. Mobile game app is the most profitable category. There are a variety of in-app advertising services for advertisers.
According to the latest report by iResearch, a Chinese Internet market research firm, although Qihoo’s 360 Mobile Browser only had 5.6% a share in monthly active users in the year from Nov. 2012 to Nov. 2013, its parent company Qihoo was one of the biggest app distributors by 2013– it’s CEO, Mr. Zhou Hongyi claimed Qihoo was the biggest mobile game distributor in China.
Top Mobile Browsers by Share in Monthly Active Users (Nov. 2012 – Nov.2013)
Source: iResearch mUserTracker, based on tracking of 150,000 smart device users on Android & iOS
UC Web had 65.9% share in monthly active mobile browser users, but it’s not a major app distributor. A combined 93% market was occupied by the big four, Baidu’s 91 (38%), Wandoujia (25%), Qihoo (15%) and Tencent(12%) as of 2013, COO of Tencent said at the company’s year end event.
UC Web, following Baidu who also has problem with native apps, initiated the webapp campaign in 2013, hoping developers to take the trouble to make webapps for their existing native Android/iOS apps so that users can access everything within UC Web browser.
It’s unknown eventually how many developers would do so, but right now some developers feel urged to develop webapps or build presence on WeChat so that they can take advantage of the chance to interact with hundreds of millions users, the mobile payment capability, and so on on the hottest mobile messaging app in China.
Smart TV sounds like a chance for UC Web. UC Web browser is already available in Xiaomi Box, a set-top box, that users can search for online videos and browse the Web like on the Desktop. As Lei Jun, CEO and co-founder of Xiaomi, is an early investor in UC Web, it’s possible Xiaomi will help it to promote its browser on Xiaomi Box or Smart TV. Since users seem to consume more videos or similar content on a TV screen, a browser may be more useful than it in a smartphone.