Chinese carriers are building their own software platforms, to ensure they remain at the heart of the brand and developer ecosystem.
These started being heavily Android focused, as with China Mobile's oPhone, but now the cellcos are striking out for greater independence from Google. China Unicom's Wophone has made its debut, running on a Linux kernel but not Android, according to the operator.
Wophone, formerly known as Uphone, will be accompanied by a 'Wostore' for apps, and default applications will include the leading Chinese search engine, Baidu.
The platform is thought to have borrowed ideas from Android and Symbian - which power most of Unicom's fledgling smartphone base - and also from more generic Mobile Linux offerings, which have been more popular in China than elsewhere.
That approach gives vendors like Motorola an advantage. The company maintained its Mobile Linux program, specifically for China, even when it dumped its other operating systems to focus only on Android.
No surprise, then, that the vendor is among the first to commit to launching Wophone devices this year, along with Samsung, HTC, ZTE and Huawei.
The absence of Nokia from this list indicates the difficult transition period the firm is in, as it works to bring WP7 handsets to market.
It will continue to develop and sell Symbian handsets in key territories like China for some years, but they will find it hard to take a strong role in new carrier strategies like Wophone.
Currently, Symbian runs on 60% of open-OS phones used in China, according to Analysys International, while Windows Mobile has 13%, Android almost 11% and iOS 5.4%.
Microsoft has a strategic alliance with baseband maker MediaTek to get Windows into low cost Chinese devices, and this may gain new power with Nokia included in the axis as well.
Wophone, like many carriers' own-brand devices and user interfaces, is expected to target the midrange, appearing in mass market smartphones while, at the high end, Unicom will still push big-brand devices like the iPhone.
There is no indication that Unicom's platform goes beyond software, unlike China Mobile's, which also rests on a specific oPhone hardware design created by Marvell.
Original Article URL:China Unicom spurns Android for Wophone