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3 top Chinese tech trends for 2011
Social networks, localized services and price reductions are all going to hit China's mobile phones this year
Technology in 2011 will be all about connectedness -- integrating systems to further shrink distances between people.
In 2010, China’s central government put its money and weight behind a massive project to integrate the nation’s Internet, mobile and broadcast media networks. Next year, this with the global rise of social networking will continue to change how we interact with technology and therefore each other.
1. From social networks to social graphs
In China the Internet is fast becoming indispensable to social connection and self expression. Time spent on social networking sites has surpassed that spent emailing, according to a survey of 2,000 Chinese netizens by TNS Digital.
If they bring the price to within the golden RMB 1,000 to 1,500 bracket, it may usher in the age of smartphones for the masses.— Benjamin Joffe, CEO of +8*
This may explain the runaway popularity of weibo, Sina’s Twitter-like micro-blogging service.
Sina projects that weibo’s user base will swell to 150 million in 2011.
Kai Lukoff, technology blogger and co-founder of TechRice, expects to see fierce competition in social networking as Internet giants Tencent, Google and Baidu all weigh in on the game next year.
There is huge untapped potential, according to U.S. research firm Nielsen.
“Imagine that a social network is not just a website, but a graph of all our connections to brands, places and people," says Jesse Goranson, Nielsen’s vice president of media research. "If we could take that anywhere we go, get information on where our friends went, what they bought and liked, it could change how we do everything."
Kaixin001, China’s Facebook, is taking a step towards this future with online viral marketing.
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“Next year, we will have not only ‘user generated content,’ but also ‘user generated conversations’ about brands and ‘user generated campaigns’ for advertising,” says Sun Lu, the company’s chief campaign builder.
2. Local services go mobile
China's National Triple Network Convergence is scheduled to take five years to complete, but by next year there will be “major breakthroughs” in the first phase of converging Internet and mobile networks, according to domestic research firm Analysys International.
With mobile payments on the horizon, 2011 marks the starting point for mobile E-commerce in China. It also opens up new opportunities for social networking and online mapping.
“Next year, Chinese mobile Internet services will be characterized by a combination of personalization, location-based services and social networks and blogging,” says a recent Analysys report.
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It’s another step towards the idea of a “social graph,” described by Goranson, that follows users everywhere.
Innovative U.S. services such as Four Square are working on mobile applications that map social networks onto the local businesses near to the user’s current location, making recommendations and giving out coupons.
These location-based services are also likely to take off in China -- competing with already present local clones -- especially since Internet group purchase schemes similar to Groupon have already been successful in 2010.
Next year, we will have not only ‘user generated content,' but also ‘user generated conversations’ about brands and ‘user generated campaigns’ for advertising.— Sun Lu, Kaixin001
Future stages of the triple network convergence will concentrate on mobile and Internet TV. Although TV networks across the nation are digitizing fast, services like GoogleTV will not be significant here for another few years.
3. Smartphones for the masses
The trends in mobile Internet will drive smartphone sales in 2011.
Zero2IPO, a China-based consultancy, expects shipments of mobile phones to surpass that of PCs in two years' time.
Advances in cloud computing, which stores files in a central server, will further break down barriers between mobile and PC in China by allowing the same information to be downloaded onto different terminal devices.
However, Apple’s iPhone may not be the ultimate winner in China’s smartphone market, especially in the poorer, inland provinces.
“Taiwan’s MediaTek, which creates the MTK chipset on which most Chinese phones are made, is moving into the mainstream handset market in many emerging markets including China,” says Benjamin Joffe, CEO of Asia-focused digital research company +8*.
Joffe also notes that Chinese mobile makers and telecom operators are embracing Android -- Google’s free open-source operating system for mobiles.
“The first MTK Android handsets have entered the market, delivering an experience close enough to the iPhone and with less restrictions. If they bring the price to within the golden RMB 1,000 to 1,500 bracket, it may usher in the age of smartphones for the masses,” predicts Joffe.