Tencent takes on Alibaba, Xiaomi with open smart hardware operating system

By Reuters

Apr 28, 2015 07:26 AM EDT

China's Tencent Holdings Ltd launched on Tuesday an operating system for internet-connected devices such as TVs and watches that is open to all developers, taking on domestic rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Xiaomi Inc in the smart hardware space.

Tencent Operating System (OS) and TOS+ allow manufacturers and developers to freely use the platform if they agree to share revenue. This model mirrors Google Inc's Android mobile OS, and could help Tencent replicate the U.S. firm's conquest of the majority of the world's smartphones.

Tencent is the dominant social networking and online entertainment company in China, and the success of its OS would deepen its control over users' screens. Tencent's WeChat mobile messaging app is the most widely used for communication, and is also popular for shopping, gaming and other mobile services such as hailing a taxi.

"We want to inject more content into smart hardware systems and have connectivityacross different terminals," Zhong Xiangping, head of TOS+, told the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing.

Tencent, e-commerce giant Alibaba, which develops the Yun Operating System (OS), and smartphone maker Xiaomi have already made forays into smart hardware, with internet-connected TVs, fitness bands and air purifiers.

Their systems for both mobile and hardware offer an alternative to Google's services, many of which are unusable in China, including key features for Android, due to several factors including censorship and licensing issues.

Tencent said it wanted to layer the Android-based TOS+ over smart hardware, from TVs to watches and virtual reality headsets. That would mean playing games on a TV using a smartphone, or using a TOS+ smart watch to make payments from a handset, Zhong said.

Earlier this month, Alibaba formed a 'smart living' business unit as it races to introduce internet and computing capabilities to various kinds of everyday products.

The company's finance affiliate Ant Financial also teamed with Xiaomi to jointly develop mobile payment systems using wearable technology.

Baidu Inc, China's biggest search engine, is also developing its own Android-based smart watch OS, DuWear, compatible with Sony Corp, Lenovo Group Ltd's Motorola and LG Corp wearables. The DuWear Watch is set to go on sale in June.

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