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Chinese show off their Internet prowess

agenda by k raveendran|By K Raveendran| The Chinese presence in the UAE, Gulf and the Middle East is well-entrenched, with China becoming almost a byword for manufacturing, engineering, construction and supply of any kind of goods. Over the years, China has also built up a global footprint for its consumer electronics industry, where the ingenuity of its people to come up with cheaper versions of the most sophisticated products not only has consumers bemused, but the original manufacturers driven to desperation. Reports say Chinese smart phone maker Xiaomi has already overtaken Samsung in the domestic market for two consecutive quarters. Apple is facing a similar onslaught on its i-phones and i-pads.

Huawaei, another major Chinese smart phone brand, has an increasing presence in the Middle East and European markets and is consistently growing its global share of the smart phone market. Huawaei is also a leading global ICT solutions provider and has partnership with both Etisalat and du for upgrading the mobile infrastructure and supply of new technologies. Huawei has had a long presence in the UAE, mostly working with Etisalat on the infrastructure and technology side.

The Chinese technology focus is now further changing, with indigenous companies emerging as major players in Internet-related technologies, an area where China has had a very low-key presence. The first major foray in this area was by Alibaba, whose success as the largest e-commerce company in China is now set to go global. Alibaba, the company founded by a former English teacher in his one-bedroom apartment in a lesser known Chinese province, is now preparing for an IPO that is expected to raise $20 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.

Alibaba does not have much Middle East connection but for its name, which is derived from The Arabian Nights folklore. Just as Ali Baba, the poor wood cutter, discovered the hidden treasures in the folk tales, the Alibaba founder conceived his product as unearthing the sprawling base of Chinese manufacturing to the outside world. The first incarnation of Alibaba was as an online directory called China Pages, which did not live up to the teacher’s expectations and ultimately failed.

While Alibaba’s Middle East connection is only nominal, another emerging Chinese major has set up a big presence in Dubai, in pursuit of its ambition to take on giants like Google and Facebook. Highly daunting as the task may seem, the company is well and truly on its way.

Changyou.com is a leading online game developer of China with its activities including the development, operation and licensing of online games for PCs and mobile devices. The company began operations as a business unit within the Sohu Group in 2003, but four years later became an independent company, and subsequent listing on NASDAQ in 2009.

The company’s massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) have been big hits. These are interactive online games that can be played simultaneously by hundreds of thousands of players. One of its most popular games is TLBB, adaptation of a famous Chinese novel ‘Tian Long Ba Bu’. Changyou also owns and operates a number of Web assets and software applications for PCs and mobile devices related to games.

Changyou’s Dubai office has a large team, which works for the localization of the company’s highly popular Mobogenie platform. Mobogenie was launched for the development and release of high quality Android synchronization software and applications and the platform already has 450 million registered users. When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook early this year for $19 billion, it had only 500 million users, which shows how important Mobogenie’s aggregation is in terms of intrinsic value.

Mobogenie has become a platform with the largest quantity of mobile resources, including apps, games, music, videos, and wallpapers. Mobogenie enables transfer files from Android to PC and vice versa, backup of all data and restoration, installation of apps, sending of text messages from within Mobogenie on the PC, management of all apps etc.

Changyou executives attribute this success to the company policy of transparency and strict enforcement of privacy rules. Unlike Google apps or Facebook, Mobogenie can be accessed without sharing any personal information and the apps are all free. Perhaps its biggest attraction is that it is amenable to complete localization of language and culture, a factor which, they believe, will one day take it past the current giants.