Staking its confidence in the Hong Kong Internet market, America Online, Inc. Tuesday launched a Hong Kong edition through a partnership with China Internet Corp. (CIC), an affiliate of NASDAQ-traded China.com Corp.
The AOL Hong Kong service, whose foundation was struck in February 1998, will provide Hong Kong consumers with access services, localized content and communications tools such as e-mail, Instant Messenger (TM), message boards and built-in chat.
The Hong Kong edition was designed and developed by a Hong Kong team, set up by CIC, and will continue to be managed by CIC under an agreement with AOL.
While in Hong Kong, Steve Case, AOL’s chairman and CEO, said: “Our goal in Hong Kong — as around the world — is to help make the interactive medium a central and valuable part of people’s lives.”
“AOL is delighted to join with our partners, China Internet Corporation and China.com Corporation, in helping fuel Hong Kong’s development as a key Internet hub in Asia,” added Case.
“Hong Kong, with its combination of high penetration of home computers, rapid growth in Internet usage and tradition of quickly adopting new technology, is a very attractive market for AOL,” said AOL’s international president Jack Davies, commenting on the Hong Kong ISP.
“Our partnership will be instrumental in furthering Hong Kong’s competitiveness as we move into a rapidly maturing Internet and e-commerce- based society,” said Peter Yip, China.com’s CEO.
Some observers say that AOL, unless it offers a free service in Hong Kong, may find an uphill battle against the competition in Hong Kong ISP market which includes the major fixed network provider, Cable & Wireless HKT, with 60 percent market share, and 130 or more other ISPs.
Others point out that AOL might on the other hand provide the value-added service that is needed in the stagnant market.