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China sprouts another Android fork

Like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife

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QQ, the world's biggest social networking service, is to launch its own handset and yet another fork of Google's Android, bringing the count up to four Android variants in China.

Not that Tencent (owners of QQ) have varied hugely from the stock Android code. The new platform provides ties into a range of QQ services, but bears more resemblance to the UI shells applied by manufacturers such as Motorola and HTC, rather than a genuine fork of the underlying system, though it is hard to be certain from the Chinese-language coverage and basic screenshots available.

This version follows e-commerce outfit Alibaba's own fork of Android, which links to that company's cloud services and electronic-content stores. Then there's Baidu Yi, which ties into the search engine's application suites just as the stock Android links to Google.

Lastly we have Xiaomi, a hugely aspirational manufacturer with its own Android fork, which reckons selling direct will enable it to undercut everyone else – a strategy which failed so comprehensively for Google.

So on each side of the Great Wall we have variants of Android produced by insanely optimistic manufacturers (Xiaomi and TabCo's Grid, the latter the bastard offspring of the CrunchPad), e-commerce sites (Alibaba in China, Amazon in the USA), and search engines (Baidu and Google).

That's not necessarily a bad thing: Android's openness has always been a double-edged sword with everyone trying to work out their own strategy to make money out of Google's largess.

But the forking balance is now tipped towards China with a QQ variant, at least until Facebook has a shot. ®

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