WeChat launches “mini-programmes”; Apple bans tipping
本文选自 The Economist | 取经号原创翻译
IN MOST of the world, the success of Apple’s “walled garden” of proprietary software has two elements. First, its attractive services: users tend to be addicted to its iTunes music shop and iBooks store. Second, the complexities involved in switching from an iPhone to another device without losing music files or having to re-download apps.
proprietary / prəˈpraɪətrɪ; US -terɪ; prəˋpraɪəˏtɛrɪ/ (of goods) manufactured and sold by a particular firm, usu under patent （指货物）独家制造和销售的,（通常指）专利的
Neither factor works as well in China. There, many of Apple’s services have not taken off. The American giant missed the boat on music sales in the country, reckons Matthew Brennan of China Channel, a technology consultancy. Its sales of books are blocked by the government.
In addition, few would disagree that its messaging service is a flop and that Apple Pay, its mobile-payment offering, is irrelevant—its market share on the mainland is only 1%. A “genius” employee at an Apple store in Shanghai admits sheepishly that “iCloud doesn’t work very well in China.”
flop/ flɔp; flɑp/ total failure (of a book, play, etc)（书﹑戏剧等的）彻底失败.
And switching is a doddle in China, observes Ben Thompson of Stratechery, an industry newsletter. Nearly everyone uses WeChat, an app made by Tencent, one of China’s three big internet giants, for everything from social media to payments. Through WeChat it is easy to transfer photos, messages, contacts and payments history maintained on that app from one device to another.
doddle / ˏdɔdl; ˋdɑdl/ n [sing] task or activity that is easily performed 轻而易举的任务或活动
No wonder that Apple’s retention rate among iPhone users, which tops 80% in America and Britain, is only 50% in China. That does not bode well for a key market. Apple’s revenues in greater China have nearly doubled since 2013, to $48.5bn in 2016, thanks in part to its mainland app store. App Annie, a research firm, reckons it is the world’s biggest Apple app store, as measured by revenue. But Apple’s results for the first quarter of the year showed total sales falling by some 14% in greater China compared with a year ago, the fifth consecutive quarter of decline. Canalys, a market-research firm, estimates that shipments of iPhones on the mainland plunged by a quarter in the first quarter.
Hostilities have now broken out with Tencent. The two had co-existed happily: since richer Chinese prefer iPhones to Android phones, these devices are where WeChat made much of its money. But earlier this year, WeChat launched “mini-programmes,” a form of lightweight app that operates independently of Apple’s app store and robs it of revenues.
Apple, meanwhile, had disliked but tolerated WeChat’s practice of allowing users to reward generators of content (for example, opinion columns) with small tips. These bypass Apple’s own payments mechanism. On April 19th Apple obliged WeChat to shut down tipping.
Another front in the fighting is that the American firm’s mainland app store accepts Alipay, a payment service from China’s Alibaba, but not WeChat’s payment offering. Broadly, WeChat is going from being a social-media platform (akin to Facebook and WhatsApp rolled into one) to becoming a mobile-operating system, putting it on a collision course with Apple. “There is a war going on,” says Mr Brennan.
collision / kəˈlɪʒn; kəˋlɪʒən/ n [C, U] ~ (with sb/sth); ~ (between A and B) (instance of) one object or person striking against another; (instance of) colliding; crash （物与物或人与人）相撞，碰撞，撞坏
Who will win such a clash of titans? Rumours are swirling among tech experts about what might happen next. Apple is trying to fortify its position. It is investing heavily in its large network of stores and research labs on the mainland; and it plans to include China in the first wave of countries in which its highly anticipated new iPhone will be launched later this year. But Apple is on the defensive, whereas Tencent is firmly on the attack.
Mr Brennan speculates that Tencent might even launch a WeChat phone, which would make Tencent’s offering completely independent of the iPhone. Anywhere else in the world, it would be foolish to go up against the Californian giant. In China, though, the native firm may have the advantage. As Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz, an investment fund in Silicon Valley, puts it: “Loyalty is much, much stronger to WeChat than to Apple in China.”
布雷南推测腾讯甚至可能推出微信手机，这将使得腾讯的产品完全独立于iPhone。在世界其他地方，如果有公司胆敢对抗加州巨人，这无疑是愚不可及，但在中国，腾讯可能会有优势。正如在硅谷投资基金公司安德森·霍罗威茨（Andreessen Horowitz）任职的Connie Chan所言：“在中国，用户对微信的忠诚度远远高于苹果。”
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