Mobile wars get nasty in China

If you think the past few weeks of iPhone, Lumia, and Samsung smartphone introductions were exciting, they’ve got nothing on what went down in China in the last couple of weeks.

The CloudMobile A800 — Acer’s smartphone powered by Alibaba’s fledgling Aliyun mobile operating system — was supposed to be shown off at a press event in Shanghai. Reuters reports that tech journalists were stopped outside by an Alibaba official, letting them know that the launch had been cancelled.


Alibaba later issued a statement claiming that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) pressured Acer into backing off the Aliyun mobile operating system if it wanted to continue receiving Android product cooperation and technical authorisation.

You didn’t think that Google’s Android was really free, did you? You didn’t think that Google stopped caring about China after it let Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) run away with the country’s search market two years ago, did you?

Yes, Google apparently is getting pretty serious about the allegiance of its Android ambassadors.

Mobile is a booming business in China. Its largest carrier — China Mobile (NYSE: CHL) — has 688 million customers. They are mostly on traditional feature phones, but that’s changing quickly. As China’s wealth grows and its middle and upper classes widen, the world’s most populous nation is expected to become the largest smartphone market this year.

Android remains the undisputed champ in mobile operating systems around the world and in China. There’s little that it can do to prevent companies from building on its open-source Android to drum up a new mobile operating system. Baidu did exactly that with Baidu Yi last year. However, if Alibaba’s claims are substantiated, Google apparently has some clout on the hardware end with the handset and tablet makers that are relying more and more on Android for their business.

This was a warning shot in Shanghai. The real battle is about to begin. There’s arguably no company better positioned to disrupt the Chinese mobile market as search giant Baidu.

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A version of this article, written by Rick Aristotle Munarriz, originally appeared on

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