Weibo: Qihoo's Zhou hunts Cheetah, Baidu; Techies hype Huawei's P7

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 5:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2014, 5:29pm

Qihoo 360's (NYSE: QIHU) controversial founder Zhou Hongyi was buzzing through the microblogging realm this week, attacking online search archrival Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) in one instance as he was accused by a former employee in another case of attacking Cheetah Mobile (NYSE: CMCM), a rival in the security software business. Meantime, telecoms giant Huawei was generating some rare upbeat buzz for its latest smartphone, the P7, getting several high-profile tech executives to hype the model in what looks like a page from the playbook of marketing-savvy smartphone rival Xiaomi. 

Let's start our weekly microblogging round-up with Zhou Hongyi, who is always a good source of controversial material due to his willingness to say anything about anyone. If Zhou were in the United States, he would probably get sued dozens of times each year for many of the things he says. In fact, he does get sued occasionally in China for both his words and his company's actions, and Qihoo is currently locked in a series of lawsuits with Baidu over unfair competitive practices.

It's not difficult to see why the pair hate each other, since Qihoo has posed one of the most serious challenges in years to Baidu's dominance in the search space. But Zhou's attack shortly after Baidu's announcement of a major new R&D initiative seems even more mean-spirited than usual, aimed at putting a damper on Baidu's big news.

In his attack, Zhou actually doesn't say anything himself but simply forwards another microblog post from an unverified user named @qyjohn. Interestingly, the original writer later deleted the post, indicating perhaps he got a call from Baidu or had second thoughts about his message. The original post was a message to the new director of Baidu's R&D lab, a Stanford professor named Andrew Ng, pointing out that his new employer's site was host to numerous fraudulent medical advertisements.

Former Qihoo employee Fu Sheng didn't have many nice words either for his former boss. Fu now works as the CEO of Cheetah Mobile, which went public 2 weeks ago and whose security software products are rivals to Qihoo's. Cheetah ultimately had to cut its fund raising target by nearly half and its shares now trade below their IPO level. In this case, it's worth pointing out that broader investor sentiment has been weakening lately towards China tech stocks, which is probably the main reason behind the weak performance.

Fu says an unnamed rival was busy bad-mouthing Cheetah during its investor roadshow before the IPO, though he never actually mentions either Zhou Hongyi or Qihoo by name. But it's quite clear from his description who he's talking about, and his failure to directly mention Qihoo probably reflects a certain level of intimidation he still feels from his old boss.

From the controversial ways of Zhou Hongyi, let's turn to a more positive story in Huawei. The company's smartphones are known for their relatively high quality, even though their image remains a bit stodgy due to Huawei's own status as a large company without much marketing savvy. Perhaps someone in Huawei's marketing department is trying to change that by making the company seem more trendy, an approach used by the fast-rising Xiaomi which enjoys a reputation for "cool".

That's my best guess for the reason behind the buzz that was coming from several high-tech execs talking about the new P7 shortly after its launch. Executives who had generally positive words about the phone included Long Wei, chairman of leading restaurant ratings site Dianping; and Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi, China's second biggest video sharing site

This kind of approach of getting other top techies to talk about your product looks quite smart, as it adds buzz to a launch without seeming too promotional and self-congratulatory. I suspect that Huawei gave free P7 smartphones to Long and Gong, and probably to many other high-level tech executives. It may have even given them "incentives" to write about the phone on their microblogs. But whatever the case, I have to congratulate Huawei for receiving this recognition, which could help it to shed its stodgy image and become more trendy.

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