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Alibaba’s Aliyun mobile OS runs Android apps

Aliyun homescreen

Reports have been swirling that Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba was getting ready to launch its own mobile operating system, and today Alibaba Cloud Computing officially unveiled the Aliyun OS. Aliyun OS is based on Linux and will launch next month on a Chinese-manufactured K-Touch Cloud-Smart Phone W700 at the end of this month. As expected, the Aliyun OS ties in directly with cloud-based services driven by Alibaba to handle things like email, mapping, text messages, photo and video sharing and more—and Alibaba will initially be offering customers 100 GB worth of storage. But here’s what may be the kicker: the Aliyun OS devices will be able to run Android apps, immediately opening up the platform to the broader Android ecosystem.

Alibaba says it envisions developers will primarily tool apps for the Aliyun OS using HTML5 and JavaScript, enabling quicker, relatively platform-independent app development that can span a variety of devices. And Aliyun OS’s twenty-or-so main applications are all built using Web technologies tapping into cloud-based services, including Web search and data synchronization features that make sure users data is mirrored across their phone, PC, and other devices.

Industry reports have the K-Touch W700 going on sale later this month at a price around US$420; Alibaba expects to follow up quickly with an Aliyun OS tablet device.

Alibaba apparently doesn’t plan to manufacture Aliyun devices itself, but will rely on OEMs to create and sell Aliyun devices. Alibaba is apparently planning an English-language version of Aliyun—although there’s no word if Alibaba plans to extend Aliyun outside of the Chinese market.

If Alibaba can leverage its presence in the Chinese consumer ecommerce market into a compelling mobile experience, the company may be able to give Android and iOS a significant challenge in the Chinese market. Currently, Symbian is the dominant smartphone platform in China, with Android and iOS seeing rapid growth. However, China has proven a difficult market for western technology companies: a homegrown mobile operating system could have a significant edge on other players.

[Images via Penn Olsen/sina.com]