China's e-commerce giant Alibaba to launch mobile OS

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is believed to be building its own mobile operating system, to be launched later this year.

Suggestions of the project have surfaced in the Chinese press, as well as the Wall Street Journal and through Reuters, though Alibaba, which has operated a dedicated Cloud Computing unit since 2009, has yet to make any official statement on the project.

Quoting an unnamed source, ‘close to the situation’, WSJ said that the OS would offer cloud based applications, and was planned to be released in the third quarter of this year, available initially only in China.

While the company has developed software before, its primary business revolves around running ecommerce sites. However, it is thought the company may use its OS to promote apps for these online commerce units.

Alibaba is an e-commerce behemoth in Asia, and the prospect of the firm launching its own OS may have players like Apple, Google and Microsoft looking warily at their future in the region.

With significant reach in the Asian B2B business services market, its Taobao Marketplace has 370m registered users, 800m product listings and pulls more than 50m unique visitors every day. Its Tobao Mall dominates a 48% share of the Chinese B2C online retail market, and Alipay is the country’s main third-party payment platform.

In the first quarter on 2011, Nokia's Symbian OS was the most common smartphone platform in China, with a 59.8% share of the country's total 113.8m devices, Beijing research firm Analysys International said. Windows Mobile had an 11.8% share, followed by an 11.1% share for Android and a 6.1% share for the iPhone.

It is widely believed that China wishes to reduce its dependency on foreign systems. These latest reports follow recent whispers that China’s most popular search engine, Baidu, is building its own mobile OS, code named Qiushi.

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