Business / Technology

Microsoft brings Chinese PA on WeChat

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-08-21 09:47

BEIJING -- Microsoft launched its intelligent personal assistant "XiaoIce" on Tencent's WeChat Thursday with plans for business use to compete with rivals like Apple's Siri and Google Now.

XiaoIce, a virtual PA that Microsoft says was developed by its Beijing research team is accessible on Tencent's instant messenger WeChat as Microsoft expands its offerings on mobile Internet.

Unlike Apple's Siri, or Google Now on Android devices, Microsoft's meager share in mobile operating system in China and worldwide has forced it to expand onto popular apps like WeChat, which HSBC said is now worth about half of Tencent's HK$1.27 trillion market capitalization. It is a one-stop portal for social networking, shopping, gaming, other services for 600 million Chinese users.

"Artificial intelligence in the form of a personal assistant will bring a new wave of opportunities," said Lu Qi, a Microsoft executive vice president.

Microsoft has branded XiaoIce as a more sophisticated than existing services offered by rival firms. In addition to text and voice interactions, Microsoft says XiaoIce can process images like human beings and is able to engage in context-rich conversations with humans beyond a question-and-answer basis.

The company also unveiled a free version for commercial use. China Eastern Airlines has incorporated XiaoIce in its WeChat account as a promotional tool. NetEase and Shanghai Dragon TV will also feature commentary generated by XiaoIce in news apps and live programs.

An alternative version of the service, called Rinna, is now featured on instant messenger Line for users in Japan. Microsoft wants to expand the service to other markets and will merge with existing Siri-like service Cortana.

In late May last year, an earlier version of XiaoIce on Wechat was shut down by Tencent after two days later over personal information concerns.

The renewed cooperation with Tencent underlines the need for Microsoft to leverage the influence of China's home grown internet giants to stay relevant in a mobile internet dominated by Apple and Google.

Microsoft has already recruited several top Chinese Internet firms, including Tencent, anti-virus software developer Qihoo 360 and search engine developer Baidu, to help Chinese users update to its latest operating system Windows 10.

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