As working from home catches on globally, gaming giant Tencent on Tuesday launched its video conferencing tool internationally, taking China’s battle for enterprise collaboration and productivity tools to markets overseas.

Why it matters: China’s tech heavyweights have been pushing into B2B services since late last year, looking for sources of growth outside their traditional industries. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift, dramatically increasing in the size the pool of potential users.

  • The market for video conferencing in China grew 36.2% year on year in 2018 to RMB 3.1 billion ($437 million), according to data from CCW Research, a market research firm.
  • In September, popular video conferencing tool Zoom was blocked in China, leaving a void for local players to fill.
  • Globally, Tencent and Alibaba have to compete with major tech players like Microsoft, Google, and Zoom for a share of the enterprise collaboration pie.

Details: Voov is an international version of Tencent Meeting, launched in December 2019 by Tencent Cloud. It offers cloud-based encrypted video conferencing and instant messaging capabilities during meetings, the company said in a statement emailed to TechNode.

  • The company touts the service’s “ultra-smooth” HD video conferencing and stability, which leverages “Tencent Cloud’s cutting-edge technology.”
  • The paid version of Voov allows up to 300 participants to dial in to a meeting, but this feature will be free during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • “By offering customers Voov Meeting’s paid features for free, we hope to provide suitable solutions to assist enterprises in reducing their operating costs during this time,” said Norman Tam, General Manager at Tencent’s International Business Group.
  • Users can join Voov meetings using a WeChat mini program without having to download the app on their phones or laptops. They can connect using their WeChat accounts or just a phone number, a Tencent spokesperson told TechNode.
  • The app offers artificial intelligence-enabled image distortion, such as beautification and background blurring. This will help users “eliminate embarrassing scenarios such as working without makeup or exposing messy home environments,” it said.

Context: Alibaba’s productivity tool Dingtalk also offers video conferencing functionality, but does not offer interoperability with Tencent’s WeChat, the most popular social network app in China.

  • Zoom’s app is ranked first in the US Apple app store, and its share price rocketed nearly 50% in the last month. Microsoft offers video conferencing in its Microsoft Teams collaboration suite, while Google has developed Google Hangouts.
  • In China, Tencent competes with other local players like Zoom’s Chinese partner Huawan, and Shenzhen-listed BizConf Telecom.
  • In February, Alibaba enterprise collaboration app Dingtalk offered online learning to students whose education moved online due to the epidemic. Alibaba is also trying to make Dingtalk a collaboration tool for front-line medical staff battling Covid-19.
  • Despite its wide usage, Dingtalk has been heavily criticized by users who flooded app stores with one-star reviews in early March.
  • Countries around the world are announcing lockdown measures to halt the spread of Covid-19 and work is moving online as a result. Out of approximately 380,000 confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide, about 80,000 are in China.
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Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza was TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter until July 2021, when she moved to CoinDesk to cover crypto in Asia. Get in touch with her via email or Twitter.