Acer to sell smartphone in China using Alibaba's Aliyun OS

Alibaba's Aliyun OS has been previously sold on smartphones from local Chinese handset vendors

Taiwanese PC maker Acer said on Wednesday the company plans to release a new smartphone in China that will use a mobile operating system developed by a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

The smartphone, called the Acer A800, will use the latest version of the Aliyun OS, which was launched last year and developed by a subsidiary of Alibaba, the operator of two of the country's largest retail shopping sites.

While able to run Android apps, the Linux-based Aliyun OS was primarily built to run Web-based apps stored on company remote servers, that can also access Alibaba's e-commerce services. These so-called cloud apps on the Aliyun OS number around 500.

So far, only two local Chinese handset vendors, Haier and Tianyu, have released phones using the Aliyun OS, with Alibaba stating in May that sales of the handsets had reached 1 million.

Acer, although well-known as a top PC vendor, only began selling smartphones in China last year. The company has plans to release more handsets with the Aliyun OS for China, and will unveil another model on Thursday during a press event, said Muriel Kuan, an Acer marketing director.

The A800 is set to go on sale on Thursday through the Alibaba e-commerce site Taobao Mall. The handset will be sold without a contract at 2999 yuan (US$473). The A800 features a 4.3-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels and has a dual-core 1.5Ghz processor and 1GB of RAM.

China is already the world's largest smartphone market by shipments. But competition in the country's market has been stiff, with Samsung Electronics, Apple and local firms including Lenovo and Huawei Technologies leading sales in the country. At the same time, the Android OS dominates the Chinese market, with an 81 percent share in the second quarter, according to research firm Canalys.

As for Acer, the company's move to use the Aliyun OS is simply a first step for the Taiwanese PC maker to expand into China's mobile device market. According to CK Lu, an analyst with research firm Gartner, "The company still needs to invest heavily to be able to grow to a substantial phone brand in China."

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