Mobility

Can AI and big data improve how you get news? Cheetah Mobile is making a $57M bet that it can

Cheetah Mobile has become a mobile software giant, launched a robotics division, and with its acquisition of News Republic wants to become a mobile content company. Here's what the latest move means.

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Image: Cheetah Mobile

On Friday, one of China's leading tech companies, Cheetah Mobile, announced the $57 million acquisition of News Republic—a move that signals its "journey of a transformation," according to CTO Charles Fan, highlighting its investment in AI and transition into a mobile content company.

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Founded in 2010, Cheetah Mobile began as a mobile tools provider. Over the last six years, it has become a major player in China's tech scene—and made a big impact, globally. It's the second largest internet and mobile security company in China, and the third global non-gaming developer on the Google Play Store, providing the popular apps Piano Tiles 2, Clean Master, CM Security, and Battery Doctor. Fan told TechRepublic that the company has over 650,000,000 monthly active users, internationally, in Q1.

Fan said he sees the company as a "bridge between China and the world." What makes Cheetah Mobile different, he said, is that 80% of their mobile users are outside of China. "Even though we are headquartered in Beijing, our target audience is mostly overseas," he said. While most companies are based solely in China, Cheetah Mobile recently set up a second headquarters in Silicon Valley, expanding its global footprint and assisting in the development of its machine learning algorithms.

In May 2016, the company announced the launch of an offshoot—Cheetah Robotics—which will focus on the development of consumer robots.

SEE: With Cheetah Robotics launch, software giant wants to create China's first global tech brand (ZDNet)

Beyond creating tools for phones that help them run faster, "we want to deliver the information to our user-base at the time that they want it," Fan said. He pointed to disruption in the news distribution space as a sign of opportunity for the company.

"Look at how information are being distributed or consumed by the end users," Fan said. Before the internet, information was passed along via "one-on-one communications, broadcasting, books, magazines."

Today though, everything is online.

People search on websites, through search engines, through social networks. Fan also sees a fourth way of consuming information in "personalized information delivery backed by artificial intelligence.

SEE: 7 Chinese companies that will shape the future of the tech industry: My week in Beijing (ZDNet)

"This is where a service would aggregate various information. It would push or make the information accessible by the user through the personalized recommendations," Fan said. "Because of various evolution of the end devices of the AI technology of the data that's available on the internet, we believe this will become a more and more popular way for end users to come to the information, exceeding the first three methods."

"Our goal is to grow News Republic into being the smartest news app," Fan said, "so that users can get the content they want to consume, plus help content producers, game developers, and influencers."

And, for the huge amount of data Cheetah Mobile is collecting on the phones? It's helping the algorithms become even smarter.

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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