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Alibaba releases smartphones

By Chen Yang (Global Times)

09:28, April 16, 2013

Alibaba Group teamed up with five domestic cell phone makers to release six smartphones powered by the group's self-developed mobile operating system Aliyun Monday, signaling its ambition to break the hold of Google Inc and Apple Inc over China's mobile phone market.

The six smartphones, released by Zopo Mobile, Amoi, Konka, and G'FIVE, are priced between 1,000 yuan ($161.50) and 2,000 yuan. Consumers can buy them on Alibaba's e-commerce platform, the companies said at a press conference in Beijing Monday.

According to Alibaba's strategy for the mobile Internet sector, it plans to invest 1 billion yuan to support smartphone application developers in 2013, and share the profit with mobile phone makers by offering them a subsidy on each Aliyun-powered smartphone they sell.

"We believe Alibaba's e-commerce platform could help boost sales of our smartphones," Liu Zhijun, president of Fujian-based Amoi, told the Global Times Monday. He noted that nearly half of their handsets are now sold online.

Monday's smartphone launch is part of Alibaba's plan to promote its self-developed Aliyun operating system, released in July 2011, after its previous team-up with Taiwan-based cellphone maker Acer Inc met opposition from Google.

A planned smartphone launch by Acer and Alibaba's cloud computing unit was canceled on September 13, and Alibaba later said in a statement, "Acer received notification from Google that if the new product launch with Aliyun went ahead, Google would terminate Android product cooperation and related technical authorization with Acer."

Liu said he has not had any such problems since deciding to operate with Alibaba.

"Alibaba has turned to smaller mobile phone manufacturers after it encountered barriers from Google in cooperating with top handset companies, but the e-commerce giant still has opportunities in lower­-tier markets and with price-sensitive consumers," Sun Peilin, an analyst at IT consultancy Analysys International, told the Global Times Monday.

Although domestic Internet companies such as Baidu Inc, Tencent Holdings and Xiaomi have all released their own mobile phone operating systems, China's smartphone market, which surpassed the US to became the world's largest in 2012, has relied too much on Google's Android operating system, and domestic developers are facing business discrimination from Google, the China Academy of Telecommunication Research under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a report on the mobile Internet industry released last month.

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