Two of China’s largest tech companies introduced new products designed to support workplace collaboration in back-to-back announcements last week, as the country’s traditionally consumer-focused tech giants battle for more business from corporate clients.
Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings launched a video conference service, Tencent Meeting, on Wednesday, while Huawei opened up its previously internal collaboration platform, WeLink, to government and enterprise clients a day later.
Tencent – best known for video games as well as its ubiquitous app WeChat – and leading telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei are among the Chinese hi-tech companies that formed an alliance to accelerate initiatives related to the industrial internet earlier this year. Having made their fortunes on the back of the mobile revolution, Chinese tech giants are seeking new growth in the business-to-business market as consumer businesses mature.
The on-demand enterprise software industry in China is growing fast: its value increased 47.9 per cent year-on-year to 24.4 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion) in 2018 and is expected to hit 65.4 billion yuan by 2021, according to a report by China IPO data provider iResearch.
Shenzhen-based Tencent’s new Zoom-like cloud-based video conference service joins WeChat Enterprise, a variant of WeChat designed for business communication that Tencent introduced in 2016, as part of the company’s move to capitalise on the lucrative market.
Announcing the new service at a company conference, Tencent Cloud vice-president Wu Zurong predicted that growth of China’s video conferencing industry will mirror that of the US with cloud-based services becoming more prominent and potentially stripping hardware-makers of their relevance, according to a report by Caixin Global.
Rather than competing with hardware manufacturers, Wu said Tencent will focus on “connecting people, meeting rooms and corporations” through services.
Tencent Meeting includes filters for users to beautify their appearance or blur their backgrounds on live video, according to a statement on Tencent’s official WeChat account. Individual users can call up to 25 participants at a time for up to 45 minutes, while enterprise clients can have meetings with over 300 callers.
Huawei’s smart work platform WeLink, on the other hand, has been compared to popular workplace communication app Slack. In China, equivalents include WeChat Enterprise and DingTalk by Alibaba Group Holding, the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
Originally launched in 2017 as a one-stop teamwork platform for Huawei and partner organisation employees, WeLink’s features include email, instant messaging, meeting and calendar functions.
According to Huawei, WeLink already has 195,000 global users and has improved collaboration efficiency among Huawei employees globally by 30 per cent.
The telecoms equipment supplier, which has been in the spotlight in recent months for its role in the US-China trade war, is a relatively late entrant into the increasingly crowded enterprise solution space in China. ByteDance also launched its team collaboration platform Lark – known as Feishu in China – earlier this year.
But there is still room for growth in the market, according to Dingding Zhang, an independent internet industry commentator who used to head Beijing-based research firm Sootoo Institute.
“In the US, half of all tech companies provide services to enterprises, while in China the percentage is only about 30 per cent and 70 per cent are focused on consumer services,” Zhang said.
“The number of services for companies in China has grown quickly since about two years ago, when most companies began upgrading their businesses with internet services,” the industry commentator added. “Enterprise-facing services are a big trend.”
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