China Mobile chief calls for homegrown platforms
The country's companies must develop mobile operating systems rather than relying on Android, says Wang Jainzhou
Published: 23 January, 2013
Google will be facing a host of would-be challengers to Android this year, with devices on the horizon running Firefox OS, Tizen, Baidu OS, Aliyun and others. China is the most fertile ground for such platforms, since Google's services are already sidelined there and local brands like Baidu and Alibaba are powerful. So comments from Wang Jianzhou, chairman of the country's largest cellco, will further depress the search giant, as he calls for more investment in homegrown Chinese mobile platforms.
Wang wrote in an article in China Entrepreneur that Chinese companies should develop or support local mobile OSs to reduce the influence of Android and iOS. While Apple has been losing share in the country, Android currently the dominant player, even though it often runs with de-Googled user interfaces designed by carriers or handset makers. This situation is bad for China, said Wang, who wrote: "We cannot always be the outsider", arguing that Chinese firms need their own mobile platforms to gain a bigger say in the industry.
The country needs to transition from "made in China" to "innovation in China", he continued and the mobile OS should be one of the foundations of that. "Many Chinese firms have already built up core mobile software development capabilities. This lays a solid foundation for future R&D work in mobile operating systems," he continued. "I believe an open platform, with support from various companies, will be much better than a closed OS."
Wang is echoing a common theme among Chinese industry leaders over the past two decades, that the country needs technological self-sufficiency and IPR superiority to take its full place in the world and reduce its reliance on western inventions. This has sometimes resulted in the country adopting its own systems and becoming a technology island - as with the TD-SCDMA 3G platform used by China Mobile. But as its vendors become ever more powerful in the networks and devices sectors, and as the balance of innovation and IPR shifts eastwards, China has increasing potential to lead rather than follow in technology.