This app developer is little known outside China, but that's due for a change. News is breaking today that Duokan has just secured $10,000,000 in funding from a group of VCs including Leijun, Xu Xiaoping, and MorningSide Ventures.
This Beijing based startup is best known for their first product: an alternate firmware for the Kindle. The Kindle isn't officially available in China (this might change), but that didn't stop people from importing the device.
The fact they couldn't buy content from Amazon (Chinese isn't support) didn't stop the importers either, but that vacuum did create an opportunity for someone to step in and help users do more with their hardware.
And that's where Duokan comes in. The first alternate firmware was released in 2010 for the K2, with firmwares for the K3 and Kindle DX coming later in the year. It looks to now also be available for the K4 and Kindle Touch.
I tried Duokan back in late 2010. It was the Lite version, and since it ran from files copied to the Flash storage, it didn't require replacing Amazon's software. I think much of it then, but that was 18 months ago. Since then the firmware has been improved to include:
- More filetypes supported: TXT, PDF, EPUB, RAR, ZIP, JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF
- More customizations
- Better PDF reader
- Better dictionary support
- Fine control of fonts and margins
- Shortcut keys
- Folders (which can be easily organized)
- Better reading experience
As impressive as that may be, it's not all they do. In late 2011 Duokan released anand soon followed that with a Windows Phone app. Duokan has also released apps for Windows and OSX which are designed to work with AppleTV. I have to admit that this last slipped me by; I had always thought of them with respect to ebooks, not other gadgetry.
I've reported in the past that Amazon might be looking to enter the Chinese market, and I do think that will happen. But it wasn't until today that I realized quite how much of the work had been cut out for them. Duokan has built up an impressive userbase on top of a number of different Kindles. With luck Amazon should be able to tempt at least some users to switch. On the other hand, now that Duokan has funding, I would think it has a decent shot at building services which would secure the loyalty of their users.