Chinese government urges local mobile firms to build own platforms

android dollThis is a strange one. A report issued by part of China’s Ministry of Industry and IT (MIIT) has apparently warned the country’s home grown mobile phone makers to beware of getting sued by foreign firms looking to assert their patents.

The report is long and in Chinese, so I’ve had to take China Daily’s word for the content of the paper – never the best and most reliable source of the truth, but given the report is government led, the state-run paper is unlikely at least to have hidden any important facts.

The message is fairly clear – now that China produces most of the world’s mobile devices and now its domestic brands have edged out international competition in the People’s Republic, patent holders from abroad may start sniffing around.

All of which is fair enough. China is a dominant player in the global mobile market, but why was the report written now, and what are the alternatives?

Well, as IDC’s Melissa Chau told me, there aren’t really any. Even the supposedly home grown operating systems mentioned in the report from various Chinese operators, Baidu and Alibaba, are based on forks of Android. These have singularly failed to capture the popular imagination, she said.

If the government is suggesting, as appears to be the case, that mobile makers look for alternatives to Android – the OS which is currently battling Oracle over Java patents and Microsoft – then it is going to take some time.

I’ve no doubt that China’s domestic brands will get there in the end. In fact, Deloitte’s William Chou said as much when I chatted to him a month or two ago.

“No Chinese handset maker has a solid platform that can compete with Apple and Google yet but we are at a very early stage,” he said at the time. “Vendors like Huawei and Lenovo are providing smartphones not because they want to earn a profit from the sales but because they eventually want to dominate the application market.”


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