China’s mobile giants joining forces to take on Google Play

Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo plan platform to let developers outside country upload apps

SHENZHEN • China’s Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies, Oppo and Vivo are joining forces to create a platform for developers outside China to upload apps onto all of their app stores simultaneously.

This is a move analysts say is meant to challenge the dominance of Google’s Play store.

The four companies are ironing out kinks in what is known as the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA). The platform aims to make it easier for developers of games, music, movies and other apps to market their apps in overseas markets, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The GDSA was initially aiming to launch next month, sources said, although it is not clear how that will be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. A prototype website says the platform will initially cover nine “regions”, including India, Indonesia and Russia.

Oppo and Vivo are owned by Chinese manufacturer BBK Electronics. Huawei, Oppo and Vivo declined to comment for this story.

A Xiaomi spokesman denied Huawei’s involvement and said the GDSA “solely serves to facilitate the uploading of apps by developers to the respective app stores of Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo simultaneously. There’s no competing interest between this service and the Google Play store”.

Google, whose services are banned in China, earned about US$8.8 billion (S$12.2 billion) globally from the Play store last year, said Sensor Tower analyst Katie Williams.

Google also sells content such as movies, books and apps on the Play store and collects a 30 per cent commission. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

“By forming this alliance, each company will be looking to leverage the others’ advantages in different regions, with Xiaomi’s strong user base in India, Vivo and Oppo in South-east Asia, and Huawei in Europe,” said Ms Nicole Peng, vice-president of mobility at Canalys.

“Secondly, it’s to start to build some more negotiation power against Google,” she added.

Together, the four companies made up 40.1 per cent of global handset shipments in the fourth quarter of last year, said consultancy IDC.

While Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi have full access to Google services in international markets, Huawei lost access for new devices last year after the United States barred American suppliers from selling goods and services to the company, citing national security.

Chinese vendors are trying to capture a greater share of software and services as hardware sales slow, said IDC smartphone analyst Will Wong. “App store, pre-loading apps, advertisements and gaming are areas that could generate new revenue,” he added.

Huawei is also moving away from Google by developing its own Harmony OS as an alternative.

The GDSA’s website includes the logo of Wanka Online, a Hong Kong-listed Android “ecosystem” platform next to a contact for the GDSA’s general secretariat. Wanka Online declined to confirm its involvement.

The GDSA might be able to lure some app developers by providing more exposure than the already crowded Play store, and the new platform could provide better monetary incentives, analysts said.

“By making it simple for developers to increase their reach across multiple app stores, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi stand to attract more developers and, ultimately, more apps,” said Ms Williams.

However, managing the alliance may be a challenge, said Ms Peng.

“The execution is difficult as it’s hard to say which company is pulling more weight and investing more in it. We haven’t seen the alliance model work well in the past.”

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2020, with the headline 'China’s mobile giants joining forces to take on Google Play'. Print Edition | Subscribe