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Move over Android, China has a new cloud-based phone!

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Android (s goog) and iOS (s aapl) phones may be gaining traction around the world, but after three years of development, Alibaba thinks there’s room in China for another smartphone platform. The company is launching its mobile platform, Aliyun, on the K-Touch W700 handset later this month.

The Aliyun platform focuses on cloud-based, web applications but is also “fully compatible” with Google Android apps, according to a statement the company provided to the Wall Street Journal (s nws). Alibaba will complement each handset with 100 GB of data storage on its AliCloud service.

In any other region of the world, I’d say such a device has no chance. But China’s mobile broadband infrastructure is still developing across the vast region and relatively few are using 3G-capable smartphones. Essentially, the country is ripe for smartphone growth and it shows.

In the first four months of this year, the number of 3G subscribers jumped 44 percent to 67.57 million. That means in a population of more than 1.4 billion people, only a small percentage of the 900 million mobile subscribers are using smartphones. Contrast that with the U.S., where more than half of all handsets now sold are smartphones.

As far as the Aliyun platform and its reliance on the cloud, details are vague. Here’s how the company describes it at a high level:

The cloud OS will feature cloud services including e-mail, Internet search, weather updates and mapping & GPS navigation tools. A distinguishing feature of the cloud OS is its support for web-based apps. These offer users an Internet-like experience and do not require the user to download or install application software on their mobile devices. Cloud OS users can seamlessly synchronize, store and back-up data such as contact information, call logs, text messages, notes and photos to AliCloud’s remote data center, and can also access and update this data across all their PC and mobile devices.

I’m not sure that “support for web-based apps” is a distinguishing feature, as all current platforms have the same support. Screen shots show the user interface to be similar to iOS, but with a hint of webOS (s hpq), so there’s nothing innovative in that respect, either.

Then again, when less than 10 percent of all cellular subscribers are using a 3G handset, maybe innovation isn’t required. But I wonder how dependent upon the cloud Alibaba’s platform actually is.If the 3G infrastructure is still a work-in-progress for many areas across the large Chinese land mass, it could pose a problem for the handset.

We’ll be talking more about the intersection of the cloud and mobile technology at Mobilize, September 26-27.

17 Responses to “Move over Android, China has a new cloud-based phone!”

  1. Lindsworth Horatio Deer

    A cloud based smartphone. clever. like having Google chrome OS on a Tablet or a smartphone. I think the Asus has plans in the pipeline to do a tablet using Google Chrome OS on a tablet

    Apple might choose to go the cloud route to, to make their Apple iPhone cheaper for the mid-level “feature” phone crowd that is not a part of the 50% of mobile users sporting a smartphone!!

  2. Interesting.. A government controlled OS. Now they can monitor and make money at the same time.
    How did they make it 100% compatible with Android? If they have forked out Android codebase then good luck to them with handling fragmentation.. Or maybe who cares about customer satisfaction..

  3. Idon't Know

    Thats because its a fork of Android. Which uses no Google services and Google sees no revenue but subsidizes the cost of the OS. Yet magically Google counts these phones in their activation numbers. Along with OS upgrades and whatever else they can think of.

    But you will never hear that from BGR right Kevin?

    • Dianne

      I can’t believe I am replying to this troll, but Google has said a number of times now that activation numbers are a count of new devices activated with Google’s servers. If the device isn’t shipping with Google’s services (especially Market), then it doesn’t count as an Android activation.

      How would Google even know about the device to be able to count it if it doesn’t have any of Google’s code on it?

  4. Kevin,

    What exactly makes a mobile phone cloud-based ? Mobile phones connect to servers via wireless transport ( be it CDMA,GSM,Wifi) etc. What is a cloud phone as opposed to non-cloud phone. Aren’t all mobile smart phones cloud-capable ?

  5. James Choie

    I assume this phone is based on stolen patents and stolen technology. Only the Chinese are the stupidest people on earth who can’t seem to invent their own products.

  6. Yuvamani

    It will succeed, Like everything else the government needs a platform it can control…

    Android is too free and laissez faire. Expect some banning action after this thing gets traction. What happens to iOS – I dont know. But Apple already censors, I mean approves “wholesome” apps already so they may be good.