iPhone X – One trick pony

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Face ID will make or break this device.

  • I have long believed that this year’s iPhone offerings will not trigger a super cycle of replacement but with a lukewarm reception for the iPhone 8 is likely to mean that it is up to the iPhone X to drive Apple’s bottom line beyond expectations.
  • When I look at the iPhone X and compare it to the Galaxy s8 / s8+ or the Note 8, it is frankly, unremarkable.
  • Furthermore, I suspect that on a side by side test, the Galaxy s8 screen may well come out on top.
  • However, the Galaxy s8/s8+ and Note 8 all fall over where every Android phone always falls over which is: software.
  • All the apps are there but they never seem to work quite as well as they do on iOS leaving the whole experience feeling disjointed despite best in class hardware.
  • In my opinion the weakest feature of this year’s Samsung line-up is the facial recognition which is very slow and unreliable on the best of days.
  • Almost anything other than a perfect situation causes it to fail and sunglasses, hats and even lollipops are a no go.
  • The end result is a trip back in time to when Nokia ruled the smartphone market where I end up using a PIN to unlock the device 90% of the time.
  • This is where the iPhone X can leave Samsung in the dust as I suspect that almost everywhere else (except perhaps the processor) it is likely to be somewhat behind.
  • However, in order to do this Face ID on the iPhone X has to be flawless which is a tall order especially as it failed to recognise one of Apple’s best-known executives first time.
  • In Apple’s defence there may have been some mitigating circumstances that caused it to fail in that instance that have nothing to do with how the technology will work day to day.
  • However, if Face ID proves to be anything less than Apple has billed, I think it will materially hurt the appeal of the device as the method of unlocking and authenticating on the iPhone 8 will instantly become far superior to the flagship.
  • This has the prospect to slow down replacement by iOS users which will materially impact Apple’s results going into fiscal Q1 (Q4 17) and Q2 (Q1 18).
  • The net result would most likely to be an unwinding of Apple’s PER multiple which has expanded nicely this year on hopes of another iPhone 6-like super cycle.
  • I think that even if Face ID works as well as hoped, I doubt it will trigger another cycle of that magnitude, especially given that the device starts at $999.
  • Consequently, I am increasingly nervous with regard to Apple’s share price as I can see only downward drivers.
  • My indifference is moving more towards the negative end as there is more value to be had elsewhere.
  • Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft leap to mind.

Amazon vs. Everyone – Battle for the home pt. V

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Amazon goes better, smaller cheaper.

  • Amazon has raised the bar in the digital assistants battle right before Google’s hardware event on 4th October with an update to the Amazon Echo home speaker and a big upgrade to the user experience.
  • Amazon has launched two new speakers to replace the Amazon Echo, one of which is has extra hardware to optimise the smart home experience.
  • On top of this Amazon has created an over the top experience that allows the user to tie together a range of Alexa skills that it hopes will make Alexa much more intuitive to use.
  • Two new Echos have been released to replace the original.
    • First: The new echo is smaller, has better sound quality,comes in 6 colours and will cost $99 which is half of what the original did at launch.
    • It has a new microphone array that should improve audio performance in terms of noise cancellation and wake word making the overall experience less error prone.
    • Importantly, this is now cheaper than Google Home and looks set to continue what has become a race to the bottom in smart speakers.
    • Second: Amazon Echo Plus has all of the above but also includes a built in home-hub that enables the automatic discovery and set-up of devices that support Zigbee.
    • The device costs $150 but also includes a Phillips Hue smart light bulb to get the user started.
    • This will enhance the smart home functionality but it in no way covers all available devices.
    • Third: Amazon has launched Alexa Routines that allows the user to tie together a series of actions into one command.
    • The user will now be able to say “Alexa, I am going to bed” and the lights will be turned off, doors locked, TV turned off and so on all in one go.
    • It will also be possible to schedule these sorts of actions.
    • This will not work with all of Alexa-enabled devices and skills but I think it represents a further step forward.
  • With this update, I think that Amazon has achieved two goals:
    • First: It has put itself ahead of Google in the hardware race with an improved device that is now meaningfully cheaper than Google’s offering.
    • Whatever pricing Google was considering for Google Home 2 may now be quickly re-thought.
    • Second: The horrible user experience using Alexa’s skills may now take a big step forward.
    • A lot depends on how good this experience is and how well it works but if it is good, it will bring Alexa into line with what I consider to be smart home best practice (see here).
  • Amazon has had by far the most aggressive roll-out of hardware that supports a digital assistant of any of the major ecosystems.
  • There are now a total 8 different types of home device that all carry the Alexa digital assistant with a large number of third party devices in the works.
  • This is critical because a large majority of the usage of digital assistants occurs when user’s hands are busy meaning that the smartphone is almost always useless in most use cases.
  • This gives and advantage to those that provide a physical device present in the home that use an audio wake word.
  • Google has this with the home but there is only one device whereas Amazon now has 8 all which are much better at controlling the smart home than Google is.
  • This puts Google on the back foot right ahead of its launch despite the fact that it has a much better product when considering the performance of the assistant and its ability to correctly respond to enquiries.
  • Google’s response on 4th October will be key to its outlook in the smart home and based on its performance to date, I am not optimistic.
  • I continue to think that Google is at risk of suffering a VHS vs. Betamax-like defeat in the smart home.
  • I don’t like either Amazon or Google on valuation grounds preferring instead Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft.

Virtual Reality – Endless funk

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Even Oculus doesn’t believe the hype.

  • Oculus has sent the surest signal yet that all is not well with virtual reality (VR) in a move that can only be interpreted as an admission that VR is far from being able to live up to the expectations that have been set for it.
  • Oculus has updated its policy for its app store that allows a user who is dissatisfied with something that he has purchased in the store to get a no questions asked refund.
  • This applies to both Oculus Rift and Gear VR content subject to the following:
    • First: The user can not have spent more than 2 hours using the content (30 mins Gear VR).
    • Second: The application for refund must be made within 14 days (2 days Gear VR).
    • Third: The refund does not cover movies or content that is bought as part of a bundle although the whole bundle appears to be covered.
  • This generous policy is an indication that the experience offered by VR is far from satisfactory which is hurting both hardware shipments and software revenues.
  • Hence, in order to keep interest in the platform and prevent disgruntled users from chucking the device in drawer, it has to offer a sale or return policy that is almost unheard of in software.
  • It is clear to me that the problems that have plagued VR since its inception are still far from being solved.
  • These are:
    • Price: Many of the devices cost several hundreds of dollars and also require a PC to run, further increasing the cost.
    • Sony is the one exception which is why I am pretty sure that it is currently the runaway leader albeit in a very small market.
    • Clunky: VR and AR units are still large, clunky and uncomfortable to wear.
    • In many cases they also make the user feel foolish when wearing one.
    • Comfort and security: VR cuts the user off from almost all sensory inputs from his immediate environment severely limiting the situations in which the user would feel comfortable using one.
    • Many units also cause feelings of nausea due to an imperfect replication of the real world compared to what the brain is expecting.
    • Cable: Many units require an HDMI cable which prevents the user from moving and also increases the risk of a fall should the user trip over the cable.
    • Content: Both games and content remain in short supply and of poor quality necessitating the Oculus shift in policy.
  • The net result is that VR is clearly still far from ready prime time and there remains a lot of work to do before volumes will really take off.
  • I do not see this happening in 2017 meaning that the outlook for next year remains pretty grim.
  • This is why I see the likes of Facebook and Apple pivoting their consumer offerings towards viewing and interacting with a virtual world through the camera of a smartphone rather than with a head unit.
  • Augmented Reality has more problems than VR but the case for it in the enterprise remains strong.
  • This is because there are immediate productivity benefits to be had from deploying a unit to parts of the work force and critically, in the enterprise one can get away with a poor user experience.
  • This is because users are paid to have the experience meaning that they are willing to endure the shortcomings listed above.
  • The net result is that I think VR will continue to disappoint with all the action in the short-term remaining squarely in AR.

India e-commerce – Second front.

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Amazon goes for the jugular.

  • Amazon is not content just to let its rivals gift it the Indian market through their own bad decisions but is going for the jugular by opening up a second front in bricks and mortar retail.
  • Amazon is buying a 5% stake in Shoppers Stop for $28m which will enable Shoppers Stop to increase the number of stores it has by 25% thereby expanding its reach into smaller towns.
  • Currently only 5% of retail sales are made online in China meaning that for at least some time to come it will be an advantage to have an offline presence.
  • This is exactly the strategy that Alibaba is pursuing in China and is looking to improve the poor offline experience by adding in technology and know-how garnered through its growth online.
  • All of Shopper Stop’s stores will play host to Amazon experience centres in order to educate and inform users with regard to the benefit of e-commerce.
  • Shoppers Stop’s will also have an exclusive flagship store on Amazon’s Indian website which will help Amazon deepen its offering to Indian consumers.
  • This is yet another blow to the local players Flipkart and Snapdeal whose inability to merge looks likely to hand the Indian market to Amazon.
  • Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon are network businesses just like Uber, Alibaba, AirBnB, Craigslist and so on and consequently, they are bound by the same rules.
  • 20 months ago I proposed a rule of thumb that states: A company that relies on the network must have at least 60% market share or be at least double the size of its nearest rivals to begin really making profit (see here).
  • Together, Flipkart and Snapdeal would have just about hit this threshold and with flawless execution might just been able to see off the threat from Amazon (see here).
  • However, Snapdeal recently ended merger discussions with Flipkart in a move that I think hands could easily hand victory to Amazon.
  • Furthermore, having been soundly beaten in China by Alibaba, Amazon is absolutely determined to win the Indian market and I estimate that it is currently burning at least $400m per quarter to make that happen.
  • In my opinion, the move by Snapdeal demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how Amazon works and what it is likely to do to win the Indian market.
  • Most companies have a strategy that involves trade-offs such as offering high quality or low prices.
  • This is the route that Snapdeal is taking by deciding to streamline and focus on giving sellers the best experience in India.
  • This is not how Amazon functions as there is no either / or in its vocabulary.
  • Instead Amazon goes for dominance and offers high quality and low prices or in this case the best experience for both sellers and buyers.
  • Even with extra backing from Softbank, I do not think that Flipkart has the depth of management or the financial resources to withstand this ruthless onslaught and I think that it is unlikely to ever make a good return for its shareholders.
  • The outlook for Snapdeal is even worse as it is much smaller with far less to invest.
  • I think Amazon will now be able to grind its two main rivals down to the point at which they either exit the market or agree to be acquired.
  • Both of these scenarios are likely to result in much lower valuations than were being discussed as part of the merger.
  • Hence, I think that Amazon is the only real winner from the strategic choices being made by Flipkart and Snapdeal.
  • However, in the short-term $400m cash burn per quarter is unlikely to help Amazon’s fundamentals much and so I remain unenthused with an investment in its shares.
  • I continue to prefer Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft.

Facebook – The selfish giant

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No love for minority investors.

  • Facebook has withdrawn plans to issue a new distribution of shares that would have further worsened its corporate governance in a move that I think was purely motivated by self interest
  • Facebook was planning a new distribution of shares that would have allowed the voting rights of Facebook to be almost entirely stripped away from the economic interest.
  • Voting shares were planned to be split into three of which two would have had no votes and one with.
  • This would have allowed Mark Zuckerberg to sell up to 66% of his stake in Facebook without affecting his voting interest.
  • Super voting distributions of shares are common in technology companies across the world and while I believe that this is fine for small private companies, it has no place in large public companies in which anyone can invest.
  • The main reason for super voting distributions is to allow founders to raise capital but still maintain control.
  • In small companies just getting started, this can be critical as it allows the company to be extremely flexible meaning that it can quickly adjust to changes and adversities that can be crucial for the company’s success or survival.
  • However, in a large company like Facebook there is no need for any kind of sudden pivot for the company to survive and consequently there is no reason whatsoever to have super voting distributions.
  • Furthermore, I find that these distributions are more often than not detrimental for shareholder value.
  • This is because founders have emotional attachments to their companies meaning that their judgement over long-term strategy is often not objective.
  • On top of this, a super voting distribution allows a founder to spend other people’s money with no checks or balances.
  • For example, a founder who owns 5% of the economic interest but 55% of the vote will only incur 5% of the losses that result from his bad decisions.
  • Minority shareholders, who have no say in decision making, bear 95%.
  • I have long believed that this imbalance gives rise to bad corporate governance and unfair treatment of minority investors.
  • Unfortunately, Facebook has not cancelled this distribution because it cares about fair treatment for investors.
  • Instead it has cancelled the transaction as:
    • First: The share price has risen enough such that Zuckerberg can finance his short-term philanthropy by selling fewer voting shares and thereby still maintain control.
    • Second: Facebook is facing an embarrassing shareholder lawsuit where Zuckerberg was due to be cross examined by the plaintiff’s lawyer where difficult questions about motivations for maintaining control were certain to be asked.
  • Consequently, I still think that Facebook views minority shareholders as an inconvenience and ranks them below the officers of the company and as well its employees and customers.
  • Unfortunately, there are many companies who take this attitude and in order to compensate for this I add a 30% discount to the valuation of the shares in order to compensate minority shareholders for the added risk of having no say in the running of the company.
  • In the long-term there is still some upside in Facebook including this discount but in the short-term I see a correction following the slowdown in revenue growth that I am expecting in H2 2017.
  • Consequently, I would be looking to take some profits now and then get back in after the slow-down related correction.
  • I still prefer Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft in the immediate term.


Snap Inc. – Troublesome hardware.

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Another plan that failed.

  • With the reorganisation of its hardware division, Snap Inc. is admitting that it made a wrong turn with its spectacles which despite being cool, no one bought.
  • Steve Horowitz will now become president of technology and report to the chief strategy officer rather than the CEO in what can only be a significant demotion.
  • A large part of the marketing effort has also been terminated with the COO of hardware, Mark Randall presiding over the vestigial remains.
  • Despite being viewed as pretty much the coolest wearable device available, Snap Spectacles only managed to rack up around $5m in revenues during Q2 17.
  • This clearly indicates that hardware was running at a substantial loss and with no turnaround in sight inevitably resulted in the cuts we have just witnessed.
  • All references to becoming a camera company have now been quietly deleted leaving the company at a dead end when it comes to hardware.
  • As Google and Facebook are finding, doing hardware when one is a software company is much more difficult than it sounds and I would not be surprised to see Snap quietly drop this idea completely.
  • This leaves Snap with little differentiation over Facebook which remains its biggest problem.
  • Instagram has a habit of copying all of Snap’s best innovations and pushing them out to its much larger user base pretty quickly.
  • This makes it extremely hard for Snap to compete as apps that offer communication are all about the network of users.
  • Metcalf’s Law of Networking states that the utility or value of a network increases by the square of the number of devices attached to it.
  • This would imply that Instagram should be at least 16x more valuable than Snap meaning that at Snap’s valuation, Instagram makes up more than half of the valuation of Facebook.
  • Instagram is an important part of Facebook but I don’t think it is contributing more than 50% of Facebook’s value.
  • Hence, I would be inclined to believe that Snap remains meaningfully over-valued.
  • I think that fair value for Snap remains around $12.40 per share which is still 10% below where the shares are today.
  • I still think that negative sentiment could push the shares closer to $10 at which point acquirors could start to take interest.
  • Until then I still see no reason to get involved and would strongly prefer Twitter to Snap Inc. (see here)

Google – Thrice bitten, never shy.

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Fourth time unlikely to be the charm.

  • Google has announced a partnership with HTC that sees some key engineering talent join Google but it remains a complete mystery to me as to what Google is paying money for.
  • This will represent the fourth major hardware related transaction that started with Motorola Mobility and continued with Nest and Dropcam.
  • These deals all had two things in common.
    • First: All of the acquired companies have felt great discomfort being owned by a company that does not really understand hardware.
    • The result was infighting and a failure to use Google’s strengths to increase market share of the products in question.
    • Second: In each case the real beneficiaries of the transactions were the owners of the assets being sold, leaving Google shareholders considerably worse off.
  • Even with highly hardware-experienced management, these assets have struggled to perform, leaving me with the impression that just being inside Google is enough to put good hardware people off their game.
  • I think that the case with HTC will be a little different as Google is not buying the whole company but instead is paying for some IP and taking on some engineering talent.
  • This is where I am left scratching my head as on my numbers, HTC’s smartphone assets currently have negative value.
  • One possibility is that Google is simply pre-paying in order to guarantee capacity and resources such that the previous ramp-up problems that occurred with Pixel do not happen again.
  • This will also provide the infrastructure and distribution to produce Pixel smartphones in high volumes, something with which last year’s product really struggled.
  • I do not think this deal is about promoting pure Android as Andy Rubin’s Essential Inc. is already pushing this button with great energy.
  • Hence, I think that this is about bringing smartphone production and distribution to scale and if Google is prepared to be as aggressive on price as Xiaomi, it might just get somewhere.
  • I think that the real risk to this transaction is once again Google’s culture which has made the other hardware acquisitions feel like unwanted orphans that have no business being part of Google.
  • Google has yet to show any sign that it has learned from the mistakes but better late than never.
  • I continue to be pretty ambivalent to Alphabet whose valuation has kept in step with the improvement of its revenues generated by mobile devices.
  • Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft look more interesting to me.

Artificial Intelligence – Dystopia

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Humanity saved by Gordon Moore.

  • There is considerable disagreement over the dangers presented to the human race by AI, but I think that it will be the laws of physics that prevent dystopian predictions from coming true.
  • At the Tech Crunch conference, Google’s head of AI was quick to dismiss Elon Musk’s concerns that AI could present an existential threat to humans or cause a third world war.
  • Artificial super-intelligence is when machines become more intelligent than humans.
  • Top achieve this, computers need to continue evolving at an exponential rate for the next 23 years and three huge AI problems need to be solved.
  • RFM has identified (see here) these problems as:
    • First: the ability to train AIs using much less data than today,
    • Second: the creation of an AI that can take what it has learned from one task and apply it to another and
    • Third: the creation of AI that can build its own models rather than relying on humans to do it.
  • Progress against these three goals is incredibly slow and only the very best companies are making any real progress at all.
  • Everyone else claims to be working on AI but in reality are using advanced statistics to make predictions that have an improved probability of being correct.
  • Even with the best minds working on these, I think it will be decades before these problems are even close to being solved.
  • However, the real reason why I think AI will not overtake the human race comes down to Moore’s Law.
  • If one extrapolates the exponential pace of computer capability over the last 40 years, one can predict that computer intelligence will overtake that of humans by 2040.
  • This is what most of the predictions of artificial super-intelligence are based on and where much of the fear comes from.
  • However, I do not think that the current breakneck pace of Moore’s Law can continue.
  • 10nm is currently the cutting-edge geometry for semiconductors and beyond around 5nm the laws of physics start to misbehave.
  • This means that doubling the number of transistors in the same area of silicon every 18 months will no longer be possible using the transistors we know.
  • It is this doubling that has underpinned the exponential improvement in computer capability over the last 40 years and without it, I think this improvement will slow to a crawl.
  • In order to continue beyond this point a new form of transistor is required which could prove as fundamental a change as the shift from triode vacuum tubes to silicon transistors.
  • Alternatives to silicon transistors are at such an early stage of development that it seems inevitable that Moore’s Law will grind to a halt long before a viable alternative is found.
  • I suspect that this will mean that the pace of improvement of computer capability will also slow down to the point where artificial super-intelligence drops way below the visible horizon.
  • Hence while I think that Elon Musk is right to think that humans are in trouble if machines ever become more intelligent than man, it is so far away in time that Google is also right not to be worried about it.
  • Dr. Moore can be content that he has added saving the human race to his list of accolades.

Google vs. Amazon – Battle for the home pt. IV.

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Amazon increases its aggressive land grab. 

  • Not content to sit on 70% market share, Amazon is aggressively compensating for the lack of Alexa on smartphones by effectively giving the devices away and pushing e-commerce as hard as it can.
  • A land grab strategy makes complete sense because the more Amazon can drive Alexa usage, the more data it will generate and the better it can become.
  • Usage is the key to making all digital assistants better and this is the one area where Amazon has huge ground to make up compared to Google.
  • Amazon has launched yet another Alexa device which costs $20 but this is immediately credited back to the user when it is registered with an Amazon account making it effectively free.
  • The latest addition to the family is called the Amazon Dash Wand which can be used to scan bar codes or Alexa to order products from Amazon.
  • Alexa is present on the device and while this is clearly aimed at driving e-commerce, there is no reason why it can’t be used to answer inquiries or control the smart home.
  • The one thing it won’t do is play music or radio but when the whole device costs $20, it is obvious that the audio experience would not be worth the effort.
  • At the same time, Amazon is also offering $50 off the Amazon Tap reducing the price of the portable speaker to $79.99.
  • The two weaknesses of Amazon in the digital assistant space are that it is inferior to Google and that Google Assistant is present by default on every Android smartphone that ships.
  • This means that if Google can convince users to use their smartphones to access the digital assistant, then Amazon will be at a big disadvantage.
  • However, at the moment over 60% of all digital assistant usage occurs when the user’s hands are busy with another task which obviates smartphone usage as the device almost always has to be removed from a pocket to be activated.
  • This, combined with the fact that Google is still really struggling in the smart home (see here), is why Amazon still has the upper hand which it is showing no sign of losing.
  • This move is clearly aimed at seeding as much of the market as possible before Google can get its act together.
  • If a large number of households have Alexa which is working nicely with the other smart devices they have at home, it will be increasingly difficult for Google to win them back even with a superior product.
  • This is particularly relevant given that the market is still lowly penetrated in USA and is almost non-existent overseas.
  • Given Google’s very slow progress, I am increasingly of the opinion that we are witnessing a repeat of the VHS vs. Betamax battle.
  • I continue not to like either Alphabet or Amazon (even if it wins the smart home) on valuation grounds, preferring instead Tencent, Baidu and Microsoft.

Tencent – Tale of two pies.

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Tencent dominates but still has much more to do. 

  • Tencent already dominates Digital Life in China and now it is increasingly turning its attention to the opportunity overseas.
  • This makes sense as China is starting to show signs of maturity meaning that the recent breakneck pace of growth will inevitably slow down forcing the BATmen to look overseas for more growth.
  • RFM has long identified that ecosystems and smartphone usage in China and developed markets are very different (see here).
  • This means that Chinese Digital Life services are not really relevant in developed markets and visa versa.
  • This means that overseas expansion for the BATmen has to be much more than just attempting to offer their Chinese services overseas.
  • While Alibaba is looking to grow overseas using AliPay (see here), Tencent is focused on adding relevant developed market assets to improve its coverage of Digital Life in developed markets.
  • This strategy has begun with the purchase of Supercell giving Tencent coverage of Gaming but it looks as if Tencent is keen on acquiring other segments of the Digital Life Pie also.
  • Most recently, Tencent appears to have made a move on Spotify that would have given Tencent a very strong position in Media Consumption.
  • Combined with Gaming, this would have given Tencent 40% coverage of the Digital Life pie in developed markets along with the 77% that it already has at home.
  • Spotify appears to have spurned Tencent’s advances, but I suspect that Tencent will continue to look for key strategic assets to improve its position in Digital Life in overseas markets.
  • Currently, Tencent has 30% coverage with Supercell but there is far more to creating a vibrant ecosystem than just gathering assets which provide coverage of Digital Life.
  • The trials and tribulations of Yahoo are all the evidence that one needs to conclude that one cannot succeed by coverage alone.
  • In 2014, Yahoo had 73% (more than anyone else at the time) of Digital Life covered but failed to create any meaningful traction on mobile devices.
  • This is because it was unable to take what were essentially fixed services and successfully leverage them into mobile.
  • Tencent does not have this problem as its traction in mobile is already strong but what it is missing is an understanding of the importance of integration.
  • I have long believed that to be really successful, the different services across Digital Life need to be integrated such that usage can be understood as a profile rather than a series of discrete and independent services.
  • This is one of the key ingredients of Google’s success and is something that Baidu and, increasingly Alibaba, are beginning to get to grips with.
  • Tencent on the hand, appears to be quite far behind in terms of grasping the importance of integration as I still see no signs of this happening.
  • In the short-term this is not a big problem but as Tencent’s valuation continues to rise, it will become an increasingly necessary for Tencent to bring its assets together in a cohesive way to justify its share price.
  • This is how Tencent can really begin to monetise its ecosystem beyond the sale of content and games and become a place where users spend their Digital Lives.
  • In China, some of this is coming through the rapid expansion of WeChat from a place to exchange messages to a place where all sorts of transactions can be executed.
  • However, in the long-term Tencent needs to have all of its services integrated and in that regard, there is quite some way to go.
  • I continue to like Tencent as it is the strongest of all the Chinese ecosystems and the share price still does not reflect all of the potential upside.
  • Hence, there is still not much very downside in Tencent if it fails to integrate its assets.
  • At the same time there is the promise of further improvement in the long-term if it begins to develop its ecosystem beyond a series of very successful but discrete services.
  • Tencent, along with Baidu and Microsoft remain my top picks.