Flipboard expects China downloads to surpass U.S.

Flipboard expects the daily number of downloads coming from China for its popular personalized news reading app will very soon surpass its U.S. downloads, following the company’s entrance into the Chinese market last December.

Already, the company’s China downloads for its Flipboard app are about equal to the U.S. downloads, said Flipboard CEO Mike McCue on Wednesday. But given the country’s growing mobile user base, the China downloads “could easily surpass” U.S. downloads in the near future, he said.

McCue made the comments after speaking at the Global Mobile Internet Conference being held this week in Beijing. The U.S. company launched the Flipboard app, available for Apple’s iPad and iPhone, in 2010, and now has 8 million users. Last December, the company launched a Chinese language edition.

Flipboard selected the country as its first international market because of its rapidly developing mobile Internet user base, McCue said while speaking to an audience at the Global Mobile conference. “China will soon be the largest market in the world for downloads from mobile devices,” he added. Before launching a Chinese edition, Flipboard’s downloads from the country already comprised of about 20 percent of all total downloads for the company.

In about the next two to three months, Flipboard will release an Android version of its app, McCue said. The China market “has a huge Android base, so its absolutely obvious for us to accelerate our Android plans,” he said. But rather then launch the Android app as a wide-release, the company will first test it on certain devices as a beta.

Flipboard is operating in China as other well-known U.S. companies including Google and eBay have faced struggles in the Chinese market, such as government censorship and competition from local players. But Flipboard has navigated the market by partnering with local Chinese social networking site operators Sina and Renren to launch its Chinese edition app.

“I felt that it was important for China to be in our DNA, for China to be a fundamental part of where the company could grow in the long-term,” he said. McCue later added on the sidelines of the conference that it was crucial for the company to enter China as the country’s mobile Internet market is still developing, and as more users switch over to smartphones and faster 3G and 4G networks in the future.

“It’s important for us to be here before that happens, rather than come in after,” he said.

The company, which now has about 50 employees, plans to establish a physical office in China soon.

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