China is a bastion of giant tech firms from Huawei and ZTE to Xiaomi and Alibaba
Today is Singles’ Day in China, an extravaganza of discount shopping that makes the US’ and UK’s Black Friday looks like a trip to the local shop to buy some milk.
Amidst the furore of purchases of everything from clothes to homeware items, technology is also on offer, and it is with that segway that we shine a light onto China’s most interesting tech companies.
Top of the pile is Alibaba; effectively a Chinese Amazon, the company started life out in e-commerce back in 1999. But like its western equivalent Alibaba has grown into something more akin to a technology company than a online retailer.
Under its group banner are web portals for sales services, electronic payment services, a shopping search engine, cloud computing services backed up by data centres, including one in Silicon Valley, and an eBay aping consumer to consumer portal called Taobao.
That’s plenty to keep most companies busy, but Alibaba also has a research and development division, a recently launched Netflix-style streaming service called TBO, and is even flirting with virtual reality. Suffice to say Alibaba has fingers in tech pies and show no sign on settling with the string is already has on its harp-esque bow.
Arguably China’s best known phone brand, Huawei started out life in 1987 manufacturing phone switches only to diversify massively into building telecoms networks, offering consulting services, and of course making smartphones.
The latter used to be dismissed as cheap smartphones loaded with spyware, but now Huawei offers flagship mobile devices that can challenge the likes of Apple, Samsung and HTC in the premium stakes, particularly with the newly announced Mate 9.
The company ins now a true tech giant with R&D instituted dotted across the world and even an investment into artificial intelligence (AI) research showing that the company is not content to rest on its laurels.
Much like Huawei ,ZTE is another Chinese firm working on both networks and mobile devices. While its smartphones have not won the attention of the international markets, in China the company is one of the largest handset manufacturers.
But mobiles are just one feather in its cap, with ZTE offering GSM telecoms equipment, operating a network carrier division, as well as offering wireless, exchange, and optical transmission products.
Since it was founded in 1985, ZTE has grown well beyond China with subsidiaries worldwide and partnerships with telecoms giants such as BT. And, like Huawei, ZTE has its CGO innovation laboratory signalling that it will look to push into other technology areas as well.
Think of Lenovo and you’ll likely know it best for its ThinkPad line of laptops and perhaps its Yoga tablet range. But the hardware company has been making desktops, workstations, servers, storage devices and IT management software for more than three decades.
Lenovo has also made headlines with some major Western acquisitions – most notably IBM’s PC and server businesses as well as Motorola’s mobile division.
In 2015 it was considered to be the world’s largest personal computer vendor in terms of unit sales, and while it might lack the appeal of Apple devices or Asus laptops, the company has grown from China into more than 60 countries. It also has a healthy research division in China operating in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen to name but a few locations.
Compared to some of China’s technology companies, Lenovo is the elder statesman, but it nevertheless stands as an example of how China can have a serious role in the technology world.
See more of China’s tech giants on page 2…