Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has been working closely with security agencies in Beijing to develop a “safe and controllable” alternative to Android and iOS. The U.S. mobile platforms (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) run more than 95% of smartphones in China. The Chinese government has been pushing to purge foreign technology from its sensitive agencies, especially after Edward Snowden revealed widespread spying by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Alibaba’s PMOS includes ‘Police Chat’
Currently, more than 4,000 Chinese law enforcement officials are using a highly secure smartphone OS developed by Alibaba, reports Bloomberg. The Hangzhou-based company provides securities authorities an encrypted mobile OS that includes “Police Chat” messaging platform, said Lu Yu, assistant to the director of China’s First Research Institute. Lu was speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Beijing last week.
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For the use of Chinese security authorities, Alibaba’s Professional Mobile Operating System (PMOS) comes preloaded with smartphones made by ZTE. It indicates that Alibaba founder Jack Ma is willing to work closely with Beijing to fulfill President Xi Jinping’s agenda of replacing foreign technology in critical sectors with homegrown alternatives by the turn of the decade.
The Chinese government has also been developing its own platform called China Operating System (COS) to rival Android and iOS. Lu said, “We have to make sure nothing secretly happens to our phones.” He said Alibaba’s software is not for commercial purposes, but to meet the requirements of people who have security concerns.
Alibaba and the Ministry of Public Security jointly developing PMOS
Alibaba has also developed its own YunOS for consumers, which is a forked version of Android. The product has failed to gain a foothold, even in China. As far as PMOS is concerned, the Ministry of Public Security sets the standards for apps running on PMOS. The ministry is actively involved in its development by contributing the encryption process.
China is not the only country looking to get rid of Android and iOS. Last month, Russia’s Minister for Communication and Mass Media, Nikolai Nikiforov, sought the help of Jolla to build a Russian operating system. Moscow aims to bring down the share of non-Russian mobile platforms from over 95% today to below 50% by 2025.