China's Internet portals are increasingly reporting that they are expanding their multimedia messaging service (MMS) as they believe the business will become another "gold mine" following online advertising, online gaming and text-based short messaging service (SMS) to prop up their profit growth.
Sohu.com, one of the three biggest portals listed on the Nasdaq, announced aggressive plans of "huge investment" in the research and development (R&D) of MMS this year in a bid to outpace the other two major rivals Sina.com and Netease.com in tapping the market.
"The peak season for short text messages is over," Sohu's CEO Zhang Chaoyang, who became interested in MMS in 2002. "MMS based on 2.5G (2.5-generation) technology will herald an explosive growth in 2004."
The latest statistics from China Mobile show that MMS subscribers increased sharply to eight million by the end of last year while experts even predict that MMS for mobile subscribers will expand to an industry worth of 22 billion US dollars by 2008.
At a Wednesday celebration to mark Sohu's six-year birthday, six pretty girls born in the 1980s were introduced as image ambassadors to promote Sohu's MMS business as this "Me" generation, Zhang believed, could best speak out the trendy and "do-it-yourself" features of MMS.
Unlike SMS which only allows written text to be transmitted, MMS allows color pictures, animation, recorded sound and even video downloaded from websites or made by the sender to be transmitted on wireless systems.
Unwilling to be outdone, Sina also said the company would endeavor to become a major propellant for the expansion of MMS business.
"Compared with Sina's 18 million SMS subscribers, the number of thousands of MMS users is still very small," said Sina's CEO Wang Yan. "Yet the MMS market possesses enormous business opportunities."
"Hundreds of billions of short multimedia messages will have been sent by 2005, which will have generated a revenue no less than that of SMS."
At present, China's government has been pushing the development of the third-generation or 3G, a much faster technology than 2G and 2.5G, which allows transmission of voice, data and video along with high speed wireless Internet access 40 times faster than the 2G systems.
More new handset models, featuring MMS technology and boasting sharp and bright color screens, as well as assorted ringing tones to accompany the visual effects, have been introduced to cater to people's burgeoning MMS demands.
"The rising MMS business ushers in a new wireless Internet era," said an industry expert who refused to be named." It doesn't simply mean a reordering of Internet portals. It will redefine the market."
(Xinhua News Agency March 7, 2004)