'TikTok' owner Bytedance plans first foray into consumer gadgets

'TikTok' video-sharing app and its Chinese version have been installed more than a billion times as of April.

Bytedance Ltd, owner of popular video app TikTok, is making its first foray into consumer hardware by developing educational gadgets.

The Chinese startup intends to release "educational hardware” in future, it said in a statement without elaborating. That initiative comes after the social media goliath acquired patents and hired staffers from smartphone maker Smartisan in January – a move it said at the time was geared toward the education market.

Bytedance – the world’s largest startup with a valuation of US$75bil (RM314bil) – has made huge strides into online media with TikTok and news service Toutiao. Hardware would complement its exploration of online education, as it taps demand for child-tutoring from affluent households.

Last year, it rolled out the Gogokid app, offering one-on-one English lessons with American teachers. It’s a burgeoning market: rival VIPKid, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd and Sequoia China, was valued at over US$3bil (RM12.5bil) in its funding round in April last year.

The Financial Times previously reported that the Beijing-based company planned to launch a smartphone with its own apps installed. But Bytedance said Thursday it will stick with the Smartisan brand.

"The goal of this acquisition is to incorporate the team’s strength to build upon Bytedance’s initiatives in the education space, specifically for upcoming education hardware,” company spokeswoman Kaylene Hong said in the statement.

Bytedance started out in 2012 as the developer of news aggregator Toutiao but has evolved into an app factory for everything from messaging and streaming to work collaboration. The TikTok video-sharing app and its Chinese version have been installed more than a billion times as of April, making Bytedance one of the few Chinese internet companies to make it big globally. – Bloomberg


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