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商业 - 科技

小米与微软合作能挽回彼此在智能手机市场的颓势吗?

Scott Cendrowski 2016年06月05日

这场合作能否刺激双方表现欠佳的智能手机业务?

小米和微软(Microsoft)宣布结成合作伙伴关系,这意味着两家公司表现不佳的智能手机业务也许将迎来新的前景。

从今年9月开始,小米的智能手机中将预装微软的Office和Skype应用,而小米也从这家位于华盛顿州雷德蒙德的巨头那里获得一些迫切需要的专利。两家公司于上周三上午在北京签订了这份交叉授权和转让专利的协议。小米表示,此举让公司与全球领先的科技企业实现了合作。与此同时,微软也获得了提供服务的新平台。

达成协议的这两家公司都不是强势方。微软在智能手机市场几乎已经出局。IDC表示,微软的移动操作系统的全球市场占有率在去年已经跌至不足2%。而小米也失去了曾经迅猛发展的势头。

对志在成为全球消费品牌的小米而言,这次的合作十分重要。Counterpoint Research的数据显示,小米智能手机的销售额在今年第一季度的同比增长已经下滑至不足9%,而他们去年的涨幅约为23%。这样的增长率,只比规模大得多的苹果(Apple)高出一点。相比之下,2015年小米共售出了7,100万部智能手机,而苹果售出了2.31亿部iPhone。一年多以前,小米的智能手机还在全球市场占有率上名列第三,而如今他们已经跌出了前五。

小米的智能手机在质量上无法与苹果的产品媲美,也越来越比不上中国的华为。如今公司的销量增长主要来源于在印度、巴西和中国销售的廉价机型。所以,正如《财富》杂志本月报告显示的那样,小米去年的总收入比起前年几乎没有增长。

通过合作获得的微软的知识产权,对小米必然大有助益。这家智能手机厂商只有五年历史,缺乏知识产权情有可原。分析师指出,由于小米缺乏知识产权,直到去年年底,他们才在智能手机中安装指纹传感器,是中国主要的智能手机厂商中最晚的一家。知识产权的匮乏也让小米在进入发达国家市场上非常谨慎,因为在那里遭遇诉讼的风险很高。

但仅仅有了专利,还不足以让小米成功进军美国或欧洲。

小米的核心商业模式是在网上以零利润或几乎没有利润的低价销售手机,借此吸引用户在他们的服务上消费。这一点很难在中国之外的地区复制。例如,美国的消费者更喜欢在实体店购买手机。在印度,小米也转投实体店销售的模式。此外,小米的服务提供范围仅限于中国。他们现在的操作系统构建于谷歌(Google)的安卓平台上。因为谷歌的服务被中国屏蔽,所以谷歌允许小米在该国使用自己的服务。但在中国之外,小米手机捆绑的是谷歌的应用商店和其他服务。

小米的国际业务拓展部门主管雨果•巴拉和其他高管称,小米是一家互联网公司,而不是手机厂商。他们表示,这是因为在中国,小米在音乐、视频和游戏上的每用户收入正在迅速增长,尽管其基数很低。

然而,智能手机销售额的增长依旧是小米业务的关键。智能手机的销售额也能推动公司在音乐和视频等服务上进行投资。苹果的分析师托尼•萨克纳西指出,苹果自身的服务与智能手机的销量增长息息相关。用户如果购买了新手机,就会顺带着购买新服务,如果他们使用老款手机,购买的服务就会相对较少。小米面临着同样的困境。

小米的希望在于,微软可以让他们的智能手机拥有更高的立足点。Counterpoint Research印度区主管尼尔•沙哈表示:“小米可能以特价购得了受保护的知识产权。但是作为回报,微软也得到了小米这样一位认真的合作伙伴,用于推广他们自身的生态系统。”

与此同时,微软最近在智能手机领域也颇不顺利。上周,微软表示他们裁掉了超过1,800名员工,将其智能手机业务的价值减记了9.5亿美元。分析师指出,再加上其他削减的规模,微软为2014年轰动一时的收购诺基亚(Nokia)之举,已经付出了共计超过72亿美元的代价。微软的智能手机操作系统的市场占有率也萎缩到仅剩几个百分点。

两家公司将如何进行合作,观察家们需要拭目以待。不过客观地说,我们没有过分乐观的理由。 (财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

A just-announced partnership between Xiaomi and Microsoft represents a potentially promising collaboration between two struggling smartphone businesses.

Starting in September, Xiaomi’s smartphones will ship with Microsoft’s Office apps and Skype, while Xiaomi will receive some much needed patents from the Redmond, Wash., giant. Xiaomi said the cross-license and patent-transfer agreement, which the two companies announced last Wednesday morning in China, helps it meet its goal of building relationships with global tech leaders. Microsoft, meanwhile, gets a new platform for its services.

Neither company is approaching this deal from a place of strength. Microsoft is all but irrelevant in smartphones—the global market share for its mobile operating system dropped below 2% last year, says IDC— while Xiaomi’s once ascendant path has stalled.

The deal is most important for Xiaomi’s ambitions of becoming a global consumer brand. Xiaomi’s smartphone growth was down 9% year-over-year in the first quarter, according to Counterpoint Research, while growth last year was around 23%, just a hair better than much bigger Apple. For comparison: Xiaomi sold 71 million smartphones in 2015; Apple sold 232 million iPhones. Xiaomi, which a little over a year ago enjoyed the third largest global market share for smartphones, has fallen outside the top 5.

Xiaomi’s smartphones haven’t been able to match the quality of Apple’s or, increasingly, Huawei’s in China, and growth is now coming from lower-priced models it sells, in India, Brazil and China. That explains why Xiaomi’s total revenues were nearly flat last year compared with the year before, as Fortune reported this month.

The deal for Microsoft’s intellectual property is bound to help Xiaomi, which understandably suffers from an IP deficit, being a five-year-old smartphone maker. Because of this deficit, analysts note, Xiaomi was the last of the major Chinese smartphone makers to add a fingerprint sensor to its phones late last year. IP weaknesses have also made Xiaomi wary of entering developed markets where litigation risk is high.

But patents alone won’t help Xiaomi successfully expand in the U.S. or Europe.

Xiaomi’s core business model—selling phones online at cutthroat prices for no margin, or nearly no margin, in hopes of attracting users to spend on its services—is difficult to replicate outside China. Shoppers in the U.S., for instance, prefer to buy phones in stores. In India, Xiaomi has turned to brick-and-mortar partners. Moreover, Xiaomi’s services aren’t offered anywhere outside China. Its current operating system is built off of Google’s Android platform. Since Google’s services are blocked inside China, Google allows Xiaomi to offer its services in place of Google’s inside that country. But outside of China, Xiaomi’s phones run with Google’s App store and other services.

Xiaomi’s head of international, Hugo Barra, and other executives say the startup is an internet company, not a smartphone seller. They say this because Xiaomi’s services in music, video and games are driving revenue per user in China, albeit from very low levels.

However, smartphone sales growth remains key to its business. Smartphones sales drive spending on services like music and video. Apple analyst Toni Sacconaghi has pointed out Apple’s own services are highly correlated with smartphone growth. When people buy new phones, they buy new services; with older phones, less so. Xiaomi faces the same dilemma.

The hope for Xiaomi must be that Microsoft can put its smartphone on better footing. “Xiaomi gets IP protected with possibly a special price,” says Neil Shah, a director at Counterpoint Research in India. “But in return Microsoft locks in Xiaomi as a serious partner to drive its own ecosystem.”

Still, this is the same Microsoft that has had recent misadventures in smartphones. Last week Microsoft said it was laying off more than 1,800 workers and writing down the value of its smartphone business by $950 million. Analysts noted that this amount, along with other past writedowns, add up to more than the $7.2 billion Microsoft paid to acquire Nokia in a blockbuster 2014 deal. Its smartphone operating system market share has dwindled to a couple percentage points.

Observers must wait to see how each company approaches the partnership. But objectively, there isn’t overwhelming reason for optimism.

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