It took three years for AliCloud, involving 1,600 engineers, to develop Aliyun from the code-base of the Android Open Source Project. The company is challenging the dominant Android in China and is also looking to expand into Western markets.
As of May 2012, 1 million Aliyun-powered smartphones have been sold.
Aliyun revolves around the idea of bringing cloud functionality to mobile devices. According to the company, Aliyun will feature cloud-based e-mail, Web search, weather updates, and GPS navigation tools. In addition, the Aliyun services will synchronize and store call data, text messages, and photos in the cloud for access across other devices, including personal computers. Alibaba says it will offer customers 100 GB of storage at launch. The Aliyun would allow users to access applications from the Web, rather than download apps to their devices.
According to Google, Aliyun is a forked but incompatible version of its open-source Android operating system. The company therefore attempted to prevent Acer Inc. from shipping an Aliyun-powered phone, arguing that Acer, a member of the Open Handset Alliance, had agreed not to produce phones running incompatible Android versions. Alibaba disputes the claim that Aliyun is a version of Android; however, the Aliyun app store does prominently feature pirated Android applications, including many from Google.