Alibaba Group’s workplace communication and collaboration platform DingTalk laid out plans to commercialize its product suite for the first time this week, as it launched the latest version of its app.
As part of the upgrade, DingTalk unveiled new features and reiterated its support for an open digital ecosystem.
“Commercialization is to promote a positive feedback loop in the digital ecosystem and [this], rather than subsidies, is what makes an ecosystem sustainable,” said DingTalk’s president Ye Jun.
The commercialization roadmap places greater emphasis on serving enterprise clients. Locally known as DingDing, the platform hit 500 million users worldwide in October.
Originally designed to provide digital services to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), DingTalk has built a following among large corporate clients, after integrating with Alibaba’s cloud computing platform in 2020.
In a three-pronged approach, DingTalk’s basic model will remain free and it will sell three upgraded models to enterprise users that want more customized features. Secondly, it will develop a commission model with independent software vendors and lastly foster relationships with hardware manufacturers.
The platform will set up a team specifically for key account management headed by Ku Wei, who recently joined Ding Talk as chief operating officer.
Demand for online communication services skyrocketed at the start of the pandemic and continues to grow. Nearly 80% of workers used collaboration tools for work in 2021, an increase of 44% since the pandemic began, according to a survey by research company Gartner.
More than one third of active users on DingTalk are from companies with over 2,000 people, according to the platform. There are upwards of 19 million organizations using the service.
Open to All
DingTalk welcomes third-party developers and vendors that provide additional services to clients on the platform.
As of March, there were more than 1.9 million independent software developers providing over 2.4 million add-on features to users.
“Digitalization should not be exclusive to a few; It should be accessible to all people, all organizations and enterprises,” said Ye.
This open ecosystem ethos is both useful and lucrative, said Ye. He estimates that for every RMB1 (16 cents) DingTalk earns, the platform generates RMB9 for its partners.
In the latest version of DingTalk, third-party vendors will be able to integrate their offerings into group chats as well, meaning users won’t need to leave these conversations to record leave of absences or submit reimbursement claims among other tasks.
DingTalk positions itself as a platform where developers and vendors can deploy, run and manage cloud applications without worrying about access to servers or infrastructures.
Ye said that DingTalk won’t be in direct competition with software developers and will remain focused on innovating as a platform.
DingTalk users should prepare for a range of new tools and features, both physical and digital, as Tuesday’s event revealed.
The platform has partnered with augmented reality (AR) glassmaker Rokid Air to bring a new version of its AR glasses to market, Ye said.
Users wearing the glasses will be able to attend meetings, track messages and use apps on three virtual screens simultaneously, creating an immersive experience for users to engage in work and entertainment.
A new all-in-one video conferencing equipment was also unveiled during the press conference.
The equipment can capture voices 10 meters away in large conference room and its high-definition camera will follow the speakers automatically when they move and zoom in when speaking.
These features are part of the hardware ecosystem that DingTalk plans to build. It made its first foray into hardware in 2017 when it launched a smart device that allows employees to clock in and out of work using fingerprints. And it has since launched more than 100 hardware products in collaboration with hardware manufacturers.
A booming ecosystem is needed to serve industries, said Ye.
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