Digital & Social Media

More Mobile: A Story of Adaptation

More Mobile: A Story of Adaptation
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Many organizations talk about the ways mobile is pushing their work in new directions. But one company, Kingsoft Office Software, is helping to expedite the shift to a fully mobile world.

In its first 25 years in business, Kingsoft (a FleishmanHillard client), racked up 400 million users of its PC-based office software. It would need just 3.5 years to hit that same milestone for its still-growing WPS Office software suite for mobile devices. WPS, an acronym for Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets, is software that competes with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Although it started life as a PC-based company, Kingsoft became one of the first companies to create a suite of office software for mobile devices – and now considers itself a mobile-first operation.

“We made that transition three years ago,” said Frank Fu, president of Kingsoft. “For the longest period of time, we had only one product – for PC users. But we noticed nobody was paying any attention to the mobile space, and we saw enterprise mobility coming in a very big way.”

Make that a huge way. Kingsoft expects to have 800 million subscribers of its mobile platform within two more years. Today, it supports 47 languages across all mobile platforms.

Fu says the suite’s success caught even the company by surprise. “It definitely beat our expectations,” he said. “When I joined in July 2013, there were a little less than 90 million subscribers for mobile. Basically, it’s caught on like wildfire.”

Being one of the first into the market – and WPS’ small footprint – are two main reasons.

“Others are finally realizing mobile is important in the office suite base,” said Eric Villines, Kingsoft VP of marketing. “But we’ve had two years working in some of the most critical markets, where people weren’t just relying on mobile as a secondary experience for running their office docs. The advantage we have is that we have two years working all those kinks out – and there were a lot of kinks, a lot of user feedback – so that we’re ready to go.”

WPS also has a small footprint – just 16MB for the entire suite. “Some of our competitors’ sizes can be as high as 1GB, which is just outrageous,” Fu notes. That’s particularly true in emerging markets, where smartphones typically have less memory than those in the West. One of the most attractive features for some companies is that relatively tiny 16MB. Why? Because, according to Villines, it allows companies to preload the software on their devices.

As the company expands into the U.S. and other Western markets, it’s noticing differences among users.

“Western users are predominantly just using our applications as a viewer. Very few people are actually editing the documents yet, but that’s changing very, very rapidly,” Villines said.

Kingsoft moved into the U.S. market in 2013, and it now makes up about 10 percent of the company’s daily downloads and 10 percent of active users – and is the company’s biggest growth market in mobile.

Roughly 3,000 companies in the U.S. use Kingsoft Office. Many of those companies discovered Kingsoft’s PC product from employees using its mobile product. “That’s very striking to us, very surprising to us,” said Villines. “We kind of expect it to work in reverse, but it’s not. They are experiencing our mobile device and making the decision to change their office suite in their offices (because) the mobile experience is so great. That’s what makes us very bullish about the States.”

Fu says offering WPS free to mobile consumers helped.

After shifting its business model to mobile, the company is finding other ways to evolve. Kingsoft currently is working with various companies offering cloud services to integrate its software so users “can open one piece of software and have everything they need right at their fingertips,” Fu said. “That will continue to differentiate us.” It also is negotiating with major laptop manufacturers to have the software preloaded on devices sold in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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About the author

Maggie Sieger is an award-winning journalist and former Time Magazine correspondent, published also by Reuters, the Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Realtor Magazine and Readers Digest, among others. She is the author of Deep in the Heart, the First 50 Years of Duchesne Academy. Sieger currently works as a freelance writer and media consultant in Saint Louis, Mo.