China’s tech scene is not for the faint of heart (or those with a sense of propriety). The advent of Weibo, especially, has made it possible for CEOs to talk shit about each other more quickly and publicly than ever before, and more than a few choose to take advantage. Now their ranks include Xiaomi’s Lei Jun (who has always been an outspoken figure) and Qihoo 360’s Zhou Hongyi (himself a veteran of several public mudslinging incidents with other tech companies, most notably Tencent). The pair recently used their Sina Weibo accounts to batter each other with scores of negative posts, and the battle is ongoing. (In case you’re curious, here’s Lei’s weibo, and here is Zhou’s).
The fact that there’s a bit of enmity between the CEOs of two companies that are becoming competitors with the launch of Qihoo 360’s cheap smartphones isn’t entirely surprising. But why are these guys taking it to the streets and duking it out in public rather than just waiting to see whose sales numbers win the day?
We contacted Qihoo 360 for comment, but were unable to get its wiser-than-their-boss PR reps to talk on the record about Zhou’s fight. Is it a coincidence that this fight is happening now, just a day before the company launches a new smartphone together with Haier? This is just my own speculation, mind you, but probably not.
Of course, that doesn’t explain why Lei Jun is responding (and thus adding fuel to this already-viral fire). Luckily, Lei Jun explained that himself in an interview with Southern Metropolis. Primarily, he said, he chose to react because of Zhou Hongyi’s allegations that Xiaomi was making a massive profit. “A lie told a thousand times becomes the truth,” Lei said, emphatically denying that Xiaomi was making huge profits. “Of the phones on the market using the same processor [as the Xiaomi M1], Xiaomi is the cheapest.” He also said that Zhou Hongyi’s repeated assertions that the Xiaomi phone will drop in price was causing consumers to wait to purchase the phone.
Lei’s other issue was that Zhou announced Xiaomi’s successful funding and $4 billion valuation while the company was still in talks with investors, and hadn’t finalized anything. This made the negotiations much more difficult and nearly scared off Xiaomi’s investors. Although Lei told reporters he wasn’t angry about this, it sure seems like he is, but he waited until after the deal was finalized to react to Zhou’s comments publicly.
Whoever’s right or wrong here is pretty irrelevant, I think. This kind of public mudslinging makes the whole industry look unprofessional, and it makes the participants look like petulant children. This is especially true of Mr. Zhou, who seems incapable of going more than a few months without blowing up into some kind of high-profile battle with another figure in the tech industry.
In fact, this idiocy annoys me enough that I’d like to address Mr. Lei and Mr. Zhou directly: Gentlemen, although I’m certainly not a successful tech CEO, I think I can be of some help to you here. Please, just stop. Shut up, and let your products speak for themselves. If your phone is the better product, people are ultimately going to realize that. And if your phone isn’t the better product, shouldn’t you be focused on improving it rather than yelling at someone else on weibo?
[Southern Metropolis via Sina Tech]