By Alexandra Burlacu | Sep 20, 2012 12:19 PM EDT
Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp, the world's fourth-largest mobile handset vendor, has teamed up with Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, to introduce a new mobile operating system later this year or early next year.
The move is part of ZTE's plan to reduce its reliance on Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows, and diversify its operating system offerings. "We are trying to increase our efforts in coming up with our own operating system, while introducing products based on Android," explained ZTE spokesman David Dai Shu. "It's all part of our wider plans to create a better balance of products using various operating systems. We don't just rely on Android or Windows."
According to Dai, ZTE will roll out the new operating system with Mozilla over the next few months, and intends to release a product for use in mobiles either at the same time as the OS or a little later.
News of ZTE's new smartphone plans comes roughly one week after Taiwanese PC maker Acer postponed its release in China of a new smartphone using Alibaba's Aliyun mobile OS, due to Google's objections. Google argued that Aliyun was a "forked version of Android," but it was not even compatible with Android. Acer is a part of the Android ecosystem, and is not allowed to ship non-compatible Android devices, Google explained.
According to market research firm IDC, 68 percent of smartphones shipped worldwide in the second quarter ran on Google's Android, while Apple products using iOS accounted for 17 percent. Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile OS accounted for just 3.5 percent.
ZTE's main business is providing telecommunications infrastructure and equipment, but in 2002 the company jumped into the mobile handset business as well. ZTE accounted for 5.2 percent of smartphones shipped worldwide in the second quarter, a dramatic increase from the 1.8 percent it held a year earlier. IDC ranked ZTE fifth after Samsung, Apple, Nokia, and HTC.
The majority of ZTE phones run on Google's Android, while its "Tania" series uses Microsoft's Windows. "We are working with a regional telecom carrier outside of China to unveil products based on our own operating system," said Dai, without mentioning any names.
Mozilla, meanwhile, seems to have big plans for its Firefox platform, and in July the company announced that network operators Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, Smart, Telenor, Telecom Italia, and Etisalat were among its supporters.
While ZTE's plans to launch smartphones based on Mozilla's Firefox OS comes as no big surprise, it further emphasizes the fact that Chinese smartphone giants are scrambling to provide a viable alternative to Google.
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