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Mobile Wars Get Nasty in China

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If you think the past few days of iPhone, Lumia, and Samsung smartphone introductions were exciting, they've got nothing on what went down in China today.

The CloudMobile A800 -- Acer's smartphone powered by Alibaba's fledgling Aliyun mobile operating system -- was supposed to be shown off at a press event in Shanghai today. Reuters reports that tech journalists were stopped outside by an Alibaba official, letting them know that the launch had been cancelled.


Alibaba later issued a statement claiming that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) pressured Acer into backing off the Aliyun mobile operating system if it wanted to continue receiving Android product cooperation and technical authorization.

You didn't think that Google's Android was really free, did you? You didn't think that Google stopped caring about China after it let Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) run away with the country's search market two years ago, did you?

Yes, Google apparently is getting pretty serious about the allegiance of its Android ambassadors.

Mobile is a booming business in China. Its largest carrier -- China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) -- has 688 million customers. They are mostly on traditional feature phones, but that's changing quickly. As China's wealth grows and its middle and upper classes widen, the world's most populous nation is expected to become the largest smartphone market this year.

Android remains the undisputed champ in mobile operating systems around the world and in China. There's little that it can do to prevent companies from building on its open-source Android to drum up a new mobile operating system. Baidu did exactly that with Baidu Yi last year. However, if Alibaba's claims are substantiated, Google apparently has some clout on the hardware end with the handset and tablet makers that are relying more and more on Android for their business.

This was a warning shot in Shanghai today. The real battle is about to begin. There's arguably no company better positioned to disrupt the Chinese mobile market as search giant Baidu. However, this massive opportunity is just one part of what makes Baidu a great buy at the historically low multiples it trades at today. To get the 360-degree view of this compelling play, check out the Fool's premium research report on Baidu, which dives deep into China's dot-com darling. This premium research comes with a year's worth of updates. Don't delay -- get your copy today!

The Motley Fool owns shares of China Mobile and Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and Google. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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