Making good on reports earlier this month, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans to launch its own smartphone operating system at an event in Beijing next week, with decided going on sale in August. Apparently dubbed the “Ali-phone,” the device will apparently sport an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor and will feature a home-grown Alibaba smartphone operating system with integrated access to some of Alibaba’s most popular cloud-based services, including search, cloud storage (apparently customers will get 500 GB for free), instant messaging, and Web browsing capability. The phones will be priced between 2,000 and 3,000 yuan (about US $300 to $450), and will be made by Beijing’s Tianyu Telecommunications Equipment Company.
Nearly 20 million smartphones were sold in China in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of nearly five percent from the previous quarter, according to Beijing market analysis firm Analysys International. However, existing smartphone operating systems already have a strong hold on the market, and China is one of the few places Nokia’s moribund Symbian is still packs some punch. However, Chinese authorities have expressed some dismay that, like computer operating systems, mobile OS’s are all primarily developed by companies outside China. By stepping up with its own mobile OS, Alibaba may be looking to thrive where other mobile phone makers have chafed against the restrictions of China’s authoritarian regime.
U.S.-based Yahoo controls an estimated 43 percent of Alibaba, making the investment one of the company’s most significant current assets. The two companies are currently at loggerheads at Alibaba’s spinoff of online payment service Alipay.
Alibaba has also hinted it’s looking at expanding from smartphones to other mobile devices like tablets, but has not revealed any product plans.