Baidu — China’s version of Google — recently announced they would be buying an app store, 91 Wireless, for $1.9 billion, according to Bloomberg.
To put this in perspective: Barnes & Noble, the largest U.S. bookstore chain, has over 680 locations, is currently valued at around 1.06 billion. Office Depot and OfficeMax — both well established brick-and-mortars — have market capitalizations of $1.23 billion and $996 million, respectively.
Now there’s a digital economy.
91 Wireless was started in 2007, and over 10 billion apps have been downloaded to date. Apple’s App store, in comparison, has over 50 billion downloads, and Google Play has around 48 billion, according to the most recent May numbers.
91 Wireless — as well as other independent Android merchants– has been able to capitalize on the fact that Google Play is not yet available in China (is the indie app store the next indie record store?). Of course, China is also the land of Lei Jun, the Chinese entrepreneur who has become a billionaire by carbon-copying the Steve Jobs playbook, so we doubt that American consumers are missing out on any sweet games in 91 Wireless — probably some scary Angry Birds knockoff where the birds explode and the pigs scream when they’re hit.