Earlier this month Microsoft ended its partnership with TOM Online, the mobile Internet company that managed its Skype service in China; today it announced Guangming Founder (GMF) as the replacement.
GMF will manage Skype’s desktop and mobile services in China, as part of the reorganization, the companies have today started migrating users and updating the Skype software in the country.
A Skype blog post explains that existing users will “receive guidance on how to upgrade” to the new version of the service, which will be available for Windows 8.1, Mac, older Windows platforms, Android and iOS. Interestingly, the revised app won’t initially be available for Microsoft’s own Windows Phone — Skype says it’s “coming soon”.
Skype says the new software will offer “a better experience,” but it’s not clear whether there will be new features in the GMF-managed service and how it will differ from the TOM-Skype experience, which was often criticized for surveillance.
There’s not a lot of information about GMF and its business either. Nonetheless, Skype says its new Chinese partner has “a rich understanding of mobile technology…that will pave the way for us to enrich real communications in China.”
That’s an ambitious goal and, though well established worldwide, Skype is up against a number of mobile-first services that enjoy prominence in China. Its competition most notably includes Tencent’s WeChat service — which has the majority of its 500 million-plus registered users in China — and also other messaging apps such as China Televom’s Yixin and Alibaba’s Laiwang.
Update: Skype tells us that its new website in China is skype.gmw.cn, while it provided some background on GMF (bear in mind this is a fact sheet written by the companies themselves:
Guangming Founder Information Technology Co. Ltd. is a joint venture between Guangming Daily Newspaper Group and Founder Information and Technology Group (FITG), which aims to develop the mobile internet businesses, and expedite the merging of media and information industries.
Guangming Daily Newspaper Group is a state-run news and publishing group. Its business spans newspapers, magazines and a news portal. Guangming Daily is one of the most prestigious newspapers in China targeted at intellectuals and academia and has a daily circulation of 650,000. Its news portal gains over 85 million page views daily. Guangming Daily Newspaper Group has successfully run joint ventures with McCann Erickson and Lintas Group.
Founder Information and Technology Group (FITG) is one of the core business units under the Founder Group. It has extensive experience in the industry and employs over 15,000 people to provide products and services, including digital publishing, broadband, IDC, IT services and hardware manufacturing. In 2012, the company generated RMB17 billion in revenue; FITG owns over 2,000 patents.
Headline image via Thinkstock