Tencent Holdings Ltd said on Friday it would collaborate with International Business Machines Corp on a new cloud software business for corporate customers, a marked departure for one of the dominant forces in China's consumer Internet industry.
Best known for its popular WeChat messaging app and its online games rather than business software, Tencent said its cloud unit would now target small and medium enterprises in the healthcare and "smart city" industries.
Many technology firms are jockeying for a slice of China's enterprise software market, which promises to grow sharply in coming years as businesses modernize their IT operations and move data onto the cloud.
Tencent's alliance with IBM, which has deep experience providing computing and consulting services to corporate clients, provides the Shenzhen company a competitive answer to its Chinese rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's nascent cloud efforts.
An e-commerce giant, Alibaba has been slowly building its cloud unit, which recorded just $38 million in revenue in the three months ended June 30.
Tencent said it would tap IBM for its "industry expertise and enterprise reach" but did not disclose financial terms of the deal.
For IBM, the Tencent deal is just the latest in a recent spate of new software partnerships in China, where its hardware sales have been sliding.
IBM announced a deal earlier this year to install its cutting-edge DB2 database software on Chinese rival Inspur International Ltd's machines. Big Blue also agreed to license its database and big data technology to Chinese software vendor Yonyou Software Co Ltd.