Naotomo Watanbe,  -smiles his very rare smile. But then he has a damn good reason to do just that :  -And that is to smile.

He creates all types,  -all types of stickers for  Line  users. For its customers on Japan, Line  offers characters with smiles,  half-smiles and barely-there smiles, he smiles

And China's  WeChat, has sought to pepper the messaging experience with an array of stickers, social games and even weather forecasts. Their sprawling online offerings make them huge distribution platforms for content, not just messaging services.

''It's messaging, evolved,'' said Takeshi Idezawa,  Line's  chief operating officer.

Line has signed up  430  million users,  almost 90 % of them outside Japan. It does not break out the number of active users.

WhatsApp said in February that it had  465  million  monthly active users, while WeChat's parent company,  Tencent, said its number of monthly active users reached 355 million at the end of  2013.

Such apps have been the target of  frenzied deal-making.  Snapchat spurned a multibillion dollar offer from Facebook last year;  Facebook eventually bought WhatsApp in February for as much as  $19billion.

The same month,  Rakuten,   the Japanese  e-commerce giant, acquired Viber for $900 million. Yahoo snapped up  Blink  this month for an undisclosed sum.

Analysts speculate that Line could go public or be an acquisition target for a company like SoftBank, one of  Line's advertising clients. Justin Lee, a technology analyst at  BNP Paribas, values the service at as much as $15 billion-

Slightly less than the valuation fetched at  Twitter  when it made its debut on the New York's Stock Exchange in November. Line declined to comment on the issue.

''Line's localization efforts are paying off,'' Mr. Lee wrote in a recent note, pointing to improving momentum, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The American market is still largely up for grabs. Although WhatsApp dominates in Europe and Latin America,-

 Users in the United States have been slow to move to messaging apps from texting, leaving WhatsApp and Snapchat vying for footholds.

Much of Asia has gravitated toward local players : Line in Japan, WeChat in China and KakoTalk in South Korea.

''I do think Line and  WeChat have the capability to challenge WhatsApp,'' said Neha Dharia, a senior analyst at Ovum, a technology advisory company.

The landscape remains competitive because, more than Facebook and Twitter, messaging apps are likely to be downloaded and then dumped. Users of these apps do not have to build their social networks from scratch-

Because the apps live on smartphones and are able to tap directly into address books, photos and other personal data. Friend lists and content, -

Like photos, which might lock users into a service like Facebook, are far less important in the temporary world of instant messaging.

So the hot messaging app today can quickly lose favour with fickle consumers.

Asia-based start-ups like  Line, with all their bells and whistles, could give users more reason to stick with the app, said  Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures-

An early-stage venture capital firm. But at the same time, he said, the abundant content, could be harder to tailor to local needs. The question is newcomers like Line will translate to an American audience.

''A lot of Asian platforms have developed much deeper, richer experiences, and I personally think these broader platform approaches have a bigger potential over time,''  Mr Wertz said,-

''But that richer experience makes it harder to translate across cultures. Line's heavy use of   stickers  and   emoticons    -you couldn't  export all that to North American culture.''  

But tell me, where are the global students in on this?  Were are the student thinkers? 

Where are the Student Inventors?  Vishnu, Rabo,Dee, Hussain, Haider, Ehsan, Mariam, Ahsan, Shahzaib, Salar, Paras, Sorat, Ali, Aneela, Faizan, Mustafa?! 

Good enough wakeup call, for all of you!!!¬

The Honour and Serving of the Post continues. Don't miss the next one, as the global players warm up for the race.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Engineering and Technology. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

'''  LookBook '''

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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