Ten Years of Mi Talk Ended: Lei Jun’s Social Ambitions Collapsed

Today, Xiaomi issued a statement saying that it suspends the ten-year-old Mi Talk service.

This IM tool, which was born before WeChat, was once placed high hopes by Xiaomi Chairman Lei Jun. Mi Talk, Xiaomi smartphone and MIUI system together formed the trinity of early Xiaomi business.

But the rapid launch of WeChat by Tencent made Mi Talk eclipse the competition. Zeng Haoyan had the opportunity to subvert the QQ Michao, but he still failed to escape the end of many challengers.

Mi Talk

However, Xiaomi’s ambitions in the Internet business have not stopped. The Internet business, together with the smartphone and IoT businesses, constitute the current Xiaomi’s new trinity. Xiaomi’s live broadcast, Xiaomi’s live broadcast and short video have not fallen behind in recent years. But it is far from reaching the height of the development of Xiaomi’s smartphone and IoT businesses.

WeChat’s tragic opponent

In November 2010, Xiaomi, in its first year of establishment, decided to do Mi Talk and officially launched the Mi Talk app in December. This app with intercom function has rapidly exceeded 4 million users in the past six months.

The development of Mi Talk is led by Huang Jiangji, the co-founder of Xiaomi. Before joining Xiaomi, Huang Jiangji worked at Microsoft for more than ten years and was responsible for the instant messaging business. This is also the basis for Mi Talk’s first-mover advantage.

Obviously, the launch of Mi Talk was in direct competition with Tencent’s main business QQ. At that time, QQ users were mainly PC users, and Mi Talk was a node born from the rise of the mobile Internet.

Lei Jun said frankly in his early years that he was betting on the time difference with Tencent when he started Mi Talk. If Tencent reacts after a year, Mi Talk has a 50% win rate. If Tencent responds in two or three months, Mi Talk may die 100%.

Tencent’s reaction speed also greatly exceeded Lei Jun’s imagination. Tencent quickly launched WeChat in January 2011, and Mi Talk’s time difference advantage was completely lost.

Mi Talk

Ma Huateng once revealed that there were actually three teams in Tencent working on mobile IM products, QQ, the wireless department, and the QQ mailbox team. In the end, the QQ mailbox team led by Zhang Xiaolong won the internal horse race, which later became WeChat.

When recalling the development of Mi Talk, Huang Jiangji said that he admired Tencent’s decisiveness, ‘If Tencent felt that it had enough QQ at the beginning, there is no need to worry about the invasion of opponents. The space left may be a huge opportunity for startups.’

After the gradual rise of WeChat, Mi Talk’s development can be described as tortuous. First, it changed from an IM tool for all users to mainly serve the Xiaomi user group. In 2018, it went from silence to resurrection, but it finally came to an end after ten years of launch.

Statistics from show that the number of downloads of the Mi Talk Android platform is mainly dependent on Xiaomi.

In contrast, Tencent’s third quarter 2020 financial report shows that Tencent’s WeChat monthly active users reached 1.21 billion. The situation of the two apps is very different.

In Huang Jiangji’s view, the easiest answer to Mi Talk’s defeat in the competition with WeChat is that WeChat is made by Tencent and can easily introduce the QQ relationship chain. ‘Tencent knows the social field very well, and this is its DNA. Tencent also has the determination to subvert itself. When Tencent uses the muscles of various aspects to exert its DNA, it is terrible. This is the key to WeChat’s success.’

As early as 2018, Huang Jiangji, the founder of Mi Talk, announced his retirement from Xiaomi. And two years later, Mi Talk, which he built by himself, finally ushered in a moment of sadness.

Lei Jun’s Internet Dream

Mi Talk, once carried Lei Jun’s Internet dream. Even in the announcement of the closure of Mi Talk, there was a sentence ‘In the future, the Mi Talk team will work hard to bring you more new services.’

For Xiaomi’s positioning, the Internet company has always been Lei Jun’s obsession, not just a hardware company. However, the failure of Mi Talk still made Xiaomi lose the opportunity to own a national-level app like Tencent, Ali and other Internet giants.

However, Lei Jun did not give up the exploration of Internet business. Based on smartphones and IoT businesses, Xiaomi has also increased its layout in Internet services such as advertising, games, and finance. Xiaomi has also established a number of Internet business departments separately, and Xiaomi’s current ‘5G+AIoT’ is also called the next-generation super Internet by Lei Jun.

According to Xiaomi’s 2020 third quarter financial report, Xiaomi’s Internet service revenue reached 5.8 billion yuan in the quarter, a year-on-year increase of 8.7%. Internet business revenue accounted for 8% of Xiaomi’s total revenue for the quarter.

From the perspective of consumer-level apps, Xiaomi can also be said to be following the trend. In 2016, Xiaomi’s live streaming app was launched, and the Michao team also participated in the research and development. In 2019, Xiaomi launched a short video app and even purchased a company that has an online audio-visual license, Jiuwei Broadband.

From an ideal point of view, relying on billions of smartphones + IoT hardware foundation, coupled with their own application distribution channels, smartphone manufacturers, including Xiaomi, are still hopeful that a national-level app can compete with mainstream Internet companies.

For example, OPPO has launched its own short video app, and a short video editing app called Recording. Vice President of OPPO and President of the Internet Business Unit, announced in December 2019 that OPPO’s short video app has reached 60 million monthly activities.

However, judging from the current situation, these apps launched by smartphone manufacturers are still focused on serving their own users, far from reaching the level of cross-platform national apps.

Another dramatic event in which Xiaomi shut down Mi Talk within a few days is that ByteDance has also stopped the Nut smartphone business acquired from Hammer Technology.

In the cross-border competition between smartphone manufacturers and Internet companies, at least for now, it seems that no one can win in the other’s hinterland.

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