WPS Office enhances software, looking to take small business share from Office 365

WPS Office has been primarily consumer and OEM-focused in North America, using a freemium model, but they have a paid product, and recently began to recruit a reseller channel.

WPS Office Software has announced that it has expanded its functionality with WPS Cloud, which provides free storage place and enables both cross device support and one-click file sharing. It’s part of a push to try and take some share from Office 365, particularly in the small business space.

WPS Office, which has been around since 1989, is a division of Chinese software developer Kingsoft. They are the market leader in office productivity software in China, although Microsoft has been taking share there, with both their Office software and the cloud Office 365. WPS Office in turn is attempting to expand in the North American market. While their main focus is on the consumer side, using a freemium model, they also have an OEM strategy, and are trying to develop a reseller channel.

“We are trying to drive people to use us as an alternative,” said Cole Armstrong, Senior Director of Marketing, WPS Office Software Senior Director of Marketing, WPS Office Software. “We have a free offering supported by advertisements, and a paid one without the ads, and which also has some additional features.”

Armstrong said that even with the ad version, the ads aren’t overly invasive in the user experience.

“There are no pop-ups when you edit a document, nothing like that,” he said. “We don’t have all the bells and whistles of Office 365, but we have all the tools you need – even a built-in PDF reader.” It consists of the Writer, Presentation, and Spreadsheets programs – plus that PDF reader. WPS office is fully compatible with other formats, and while it looks like Office, users who preferred the looks of older versions of Office have the option of changing the skin to them, as far back as the Windows 98 version.

Armstrong acknowledged that the main selling feature compared to Microsoft is the low price point – less than half of the price of Office. A lifetime license for WPS Office Business Edition is $USD $79.99. That compares to a lifetime Microsoft Office lifetime license of $172.00. There is no true comparable to Office 365, which is sold on a subscription basis for $99/year, because a cloud version of the product is not yet available in North America.

The new feature, WPS Cloud, might sound like it might be their version of Office 365, but it isn’t.

“WPS Cloud is not a standalone cloud solution,” Armstrong said. “It’s a feature in WPS Office, that’s baked into the solution.”

WPS Cloud provides a 1GB of free storage space on WPS Cloud. Files stored there can be accessed either directly from within WPS Office, or through the WPS Cloud web portal. File roaming lets users open or create documents in WPS Office, which are then automatically saved to WPS Cloud, and can be accessed across all connected devices including Windows PCs, Android or iOS mobile devices, or through a web browser. Documents uploaded to WPS Cloud receive a unique URL that can be shared with anyone to view and download the file.

WPS has something resembling Office 365 that is sold in the Chinese market, but it’s not yet in North America.

“This is a more robust version where the browser accesses a fully functioning version of WP Office, but it’s not yet available here,” Armstrong said. “It’s a matter of engineering resources to build it out for the international market.”

Another acknowledged limitation is the lack of a dedicated email client in the suite.

“That’s a big disadvantage,” Armstrong stated. “It’s something we are exploring in China in beta, and if it works there, it could be available outside of China.”

WPS Office is focusing on the small business market, which is more price-sensitive, although Google is also a competitor in this space.

“Right now we just want to improve our market share, and targeting small business is the best way to do that,” Armstrong said. “The product we have now in the international market isn’t quite ready for enterprises, but once we can build up a user base, and the international product itself is strengthened, enterprises are likely down the road.”

The reseller channel has been somewhat of a third leg to date in WPS Office’s go-to-market strategy here, although they are looking to improve that. The challenge they face in becoming a credible channel alternative for major solution providers is that Microsoft partners have multiple opportunities to build and sell additional solutions around Office 365 and its ecosystem, which simply isn’t there today for WPS Office.

“Our reseller channel has just kicked off here, and is fairly small,” Armstrong said. “The focus has been on OEMs and driving website sales. We have 50 or fewer partners, and none of them are huge players in the office productivity space. We are looking to add more products to the offering for them, like a PDF to Word converter for $29.95.”