Alibaba Group, the e-commerce giant that has fielded its own mobile-device operating system, is deepening its cooperation with rising Chinese smartphone maker Meizu by taking a $590 million minority stake in the company.
With the investment, Alibaba and Meizu will collaborate “at both strategic and business levels to achieve a deeper integration of Meizu’s hardware and Alibaba Group’s mobile operating system,” YunOS, according to a press release. Meizu last year equipped a version of its flagship smartphone with YunOS, a cloud-based operating system that has yet to gain significant market share.
According to the release, Alibaba Group will provide Meizu with resources and support in e-commerce, the mobile Internet, mobile operating systems and data analysis “with the aim of developing Meizu’s smartphone ecosystem.”
Alibaba Group’s online shopping marketplaces will also become distribution channels for Meizu’s smartphones and other devices. “The investment in Meizu represents a significant expansion of the Alibaba Group ecosystem and an important step in our overall mobile strategy as we strive to bring users a wider array of mobile offerings and experiences,” said Alibaba Group Chief Technology Officer Wang Jian in a statement.
Meizu has been emerging as one of China’s better-known smartphone brands, although it is not in the same league as market leaders Xiaomi and Lenovo, which are among the top sellers of mobile phones worldwide. Meizu CEO Bai Yongxiang said in a statement his company’s strategic collaboration with Alibaba Group “will enable Meizu to further develop our smartphone business and our smart devices ecosystem.”
At the end of 2014, China had more than one billion mobile phone users. About 40 percent of them use smartphones, according to IDC.