updated 12:10 pm EDT, Mon July 4, 2011
China's Alibaba may be planning own mobile OS
Alibaba, best known for its e-commerce sites, is now working on developing its own cell phone operating system, an anonymous source close to the matter told the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The software will offer cloud-based services, unlike current popular operating systems such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android, which requires users to download apps. This will mean users of the Alibaba software are even more reliant on Internet access and subscriptions.
Initially, the OS will launch in China, though nothing prevents it from being used in other markets as time goes by, the source said. There is no indication of which hardware makers will adopt the software, but if Alibaba meets its goals with it, the source believes more of China's population will use smartphones. It's more than likely that Alibaba will tie in many of its existing sites and those of affiliates to the web-based searches and shopping.
Earlier this year, the CEO of leading Chinese search provider Baidu also stated the company has plans to build a lightweight mobile OS. The goal is for it to allow users to have a search-capable interface within one second of a handset powering up.
Both Alibaba and Baidu have immediate financial incentives by getting users to their websites more quickly. To them, it also represents a reduced dependence on US companies like Google or Microsoft for operating systems, since they would otherwise have to license a platform like Android or Windows Phone and give up at least some control of the search engines they use.