After wooing millions of users with software, the world's most valuable startup is getting into hardware. Here's what ByteDance has in store.Sohini Mitter
Is there anything ByteDance can't do or won't do?
After wooing the world with its slew of consumer apps, that includes viral internet sensation TikTok, the Chinese company is now venturing into hardware.
ByteDance is said to be working on a smartphone, which will come preloaded with its own apps, according to a Financial Times report. The company would be utilising the patents and technology it acquired from Smartisan (a boutique smartphone-maker in China) earlier in January.
ByteDance hasn't made any official announcement so far, but its decision to develop a handset of its own may have stemmed from the fact that Chinese tech companies are increasingly finding it difficult to do business with the West, especially in the US, as concerns around data privacy continue to grow.
Last week, the US Department of Commerce issued an order to all American corporations to snap trade ties with Chinese smartphone giant Huawei. It led to Google revoking Huawei's Android licence almost immediately, in a move that could have crippling effects on the smartphone-maker's international sales.
Hence, companies like ByteDance, reportedly the world's most valuable startup ($75 billion) right now, are increasing self-dependence. The company has found success outside its home market, especially in India, where it counts nearly 300 million users, primarily from TikTok (currently India's most downloaded app)
There have also been reports that ByteDance is planning to launch a music streaming app later this year, for which it has already signed content partnerships with companies including Indian labels - T-Series and Times Music.
Analysts, however, are cautious about ByteDance's hardware ambitions. While the Chinese company has been extraordinarily successful in software, experts reckon that its smartphone might meet the same fate as some of its American peers' - namely Facebook and Amazon - past devices.
Jia Mo, Analyst at Canalys, stated, “They [ByteDance] lack experience and advantage in supply chain, in channels... so, their likelihood of being successful is very low. If they target only the niche market, maybe they have a chance by attracting niche customer groups through certain pre-installed software.”