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Alibaba to release English version of Aliyun mobile OS

Aliyun homescreen

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba says it is preparing to launch an English-language version of its new Aliyun mobile operating system, Reuters reports from a press event in Hangzhou. Rather than go with a widely-used mobile operating system like Android, Alibaba opted to roll its own Linux-based mobile operating system with deeply integrated support for cloud-based Alibaba services and products like email, maps, and news—although, to appeal to the app-hungry masses, Aliyun can also run Android apps. Like the Chinese-language version of Aliyun, the English-language version seems aimed squarely at the Chinese market—where the majority of Alibaba’s services are available—rather than with an eye towards exporting the OS to English-speaking countries.

Alibaba also told Reuters it is working with hardware developers to bundle Aliyun OS into both smartphones and tablets, and expects to launch its first tablet in the next two months.

The moves highlight growing competition for the Chinese mobile market. While Apple is doing strong business in China, China’s own Internet giants aren’t sitting idle: in addition to Alibaba launching its own mobile operating system, Chinese search giant Baidu has launched its own Web browser and this week took the wraps off its own Baidu Yi mobile operating system—then announced U.S. computer maker Dell will be making smartphones and tablets for Baidu Yi. Alibaba may have gotten out of the gate first with Aliyun, but it is still working on lining up additional hardware partners to bring devices to market, although it has already launched its K-Touch Cloud-Smart Phone W700 for about US$420.

Alibaba’s Aliyun operating system is Linux-based and built around apps developed using standard HTML5 and JavaScript technology.

Struggling Internet giant Yahoo owns a 40 percent stake in Alibaba; as Alibaba’s business has grown and Yahoo’s has declined, Yahoo’s share of Alibaba has become one of the companies most valuable assets. Earlier this year, Yahoo was apparently caught flatfooted as Alibaba spun off its online payment service Alipay into a separate company, potentially reducing the value of Yahoo’s investment in Alibaba. Although the companies eventually reached a compensation agreement, turmoil over Yahoo’s involvement with Alibaba was likely a contributing factor to this week’s summary dismissal of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.

[Images via Penn Olsen/]

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