China Mobile is intending to merge its two instant messaging platforms, Sina Tech says today, following a report over the weekend by Tencent Tech that said the company is phasing out its mobile instant messaging platform Fei Liao.
Over the weekend, China Mobile reportedly sent out an SMS notice to say that from July 10, Fei Liao users will not be able to send and receive messages from its other IM platform Fetion, and encouraged them to download Fetion instead.
Fei Liao is able to send and receive voice messages, and the Sina Tech report says that this voice capability will be added on to Fetion. Citing sources, Sina Tech says that promoting Fetion and Fei Liao as two separate products is detrimental as it dilutes the appeal to customers.
The report adds that China Mobile is keen to promote Fetion as it has a larger user base — the number of users stands at around 80 million, whereas Fei Liao only has a few million users (the Tencent Tech report places it at 3 million).
These latest reports corroborate news from earlier this year. Marbridge Daily had already reported in March (citing a leaked internal document) that China Mobile was going to integrate its two IM platforms and would launch a tender for technical support services of the combined platform from multiple providers.
Following the move, China Mobile’s Fetion platform will be highly similar to WeChat (known as Weixin in China), the messaging app owned by Chinese Internet giant Tencent. This probably doesn’t come as a coincidence — Weixin has been growing rapidly in China, and WeChat has garnered an impressive userbase outside China of about 70 million from a user base approaching over 400 million with 195 million monthly active users.
China Mobile — the world’s largest carrier with more than 700 million subscribers –has been taking steps to answer the growing usage of messaging apps including WeChat, Line and Microsoft-owned Skype, with offerings of its own. However, less than a month after it quietly launched Jego as a competitor to Skype, the company has suspended account registrations for the service.
The Chinese company’s recent moves hint that it is finally taking concrete steps to sort out its mess of apps, and may be making a concerted and centralized push to rival messaging apps.
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