Corporate China

Weibo: TCL hypes Imax JV, everyone hypes Woz

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 January, 2014, 12:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 January, 2014, 12:15pm

The microblogging space was buzzing with a bit of the past, the present and the future last week, with executives from some of China's top gadget and Internet companies all hyping their various agendas in cyberspace. In a blast from the past, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak was all over the place in microblog postings from a number of tech companies executives he visited on a trip to China.

In the present, meanwhile, TCL (1070.HK; Shenzhen: 000100) Chairman Li Dongsheng was at the CES trade show in Las Vegas and also attended a board meeting of Imax (NYSE: IMAX), using both opportunities to hype a new home theater tie-up with the US-based large screen movie format specialist. In the future, Long Wei, the low-key founder of leading online restaurant critic site Dianping, was hyping his company's recent global expansion, perhaps hinting at more to come.

Let's start with Steve Wozniak, as that was the most colorful subject in the microblogging realm last week, even if it was also the least substantive. Known by his nickname "Woz", Wozniak was the technical brains behind the early Apple, and featured prominently in the 2013 movie "Jobs", about the life of Apple's better known other co-founder Steve Jobs.

Not surprisingly, many of those gushing about encounters with Woz during his China visit last week were tech executives connected with Lei Jun, a co-founder of rising smartphone star Xiaomi, who fancies himself as China's Steve Jobs. Lei, along with other Xiaomi co-founders Huang Jiangji and Lin Bin, all made posts about Woz during his visit to their company, with Lei noting how impressed Woz was by Xiaomi. Others who received Woz visits included software maker Kingsoft (3888.HK), which has close ties with Lei Jun; and Meituan, one of China's leading online group buying sites

From this fun but largely superficial blast from the past, let's turn our attention to the present where Li Dongsheng was hyping TCL's tie-up with Imax first announced last October. That tie-up saw the pair announce a joint venture for high-end home theater systems to be manufactured by TCL for viewing movies created with Imax's proprietary big-screen technology.

Li didn't have much new to say about the tie-up, though he did say the product would soon be making its global debut. Perhaps more significantly, his mention of the partnership at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and his attendance at the Imax board meeting both seem to indicate he's putting big bets on the joint venture. In an interesting aside, Sina (Nasdaq: SINA) CEO Charles Chao also made a brief post complimenting the new entertainment systems, perhaps hinting at future involvement from China's leading web portal.

Finally there's a look at the future, which saw Dianping founder and chairman Long Wei hinting that his company, China's version of Yelp (NYSE: YELP), could soon be headed for a major global push. In my view, Dianping is one of the most interesting of China's unlisted Internet companies in terms of potential for global expansion, as it's the clear market leader in the space and has even managed to find profits in the business.

In his microblog post, Long recounts the tale of a Chinese tourist who was able to find South Korean restaurant recommendations on Dianping's site during a recent visit to that country. Like many other things in the microblogging realm, this one is highly promotional and Long points out in another post that Chinese can use Dianping to find restaurant listings in a wide range of countries, including the US, France, Australia and many Southeast Asian countries. With that kind of international expansion already on the site, perhaps it's only a matter of time before this fast-growing company launches new language sites aimed at exporting its successful business model to other markets.

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