China's OPhone to Find Its Way to US as Android+

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Beijing software company Borqs is the little-known company behind China Mobile's Google Android-based OPhone operating system. It may soon find fame in the U.S. if its software finds its way into the hands of U.S. users of Dell's Aero smartphone on the AT&T Wireless network.

Borqs outfitted the Aero with its Android+ software, which includes an Apple-esque user interface. For example, the Android+ messaging application displays a conversation as a series of speech bubbles, like on the iPhone. Users can also choose to create and jump between multiple screens reminiscent of Mac OS X's Spaces feature, which lets users group application windows together and switch between them.

While Borqs generally keeps a low profile, the company's customers currently include Verizon Wireless, Softbank and Vodafone, according to Pat Chan, Borqs president and CEO.

Borqs wants to expand the number of carriers it works with outside China and is working on a Japanese version of its software. But the company will only work with China Mobile in China because "you cannot serve two masters" in that country, Chan said, noting China Mobile also has the most mobile subscribers of any carrier in the world.

The relationship with China Mobile is so important to Borqs that it only uses the name OPhone OS with that carrier, calling it Android+ with other carriers.

When the Aero and Borq's Android+ software will be available in the U.S. is not certain. AT&T has some of the highest handset standards of any carrier, which means the release of the Aero is not necessarily imminent, he said.

AT&T described the Aero's software as "beautiful" in a March press release, but has not said when the handset will be released. A promotional Aero page on the operator's Web site shows a picture of the Aero running Android+.

All of Dell's handset software is made by Borqs, not just that for the Aero. Dell entered the smartphone market last year, and is already shipping its Blade handset to Brazilian carrier Claro and a Mexican operator, Chan said.

Since China Mobile is Borqs' first and biggest client, the company's newest and most advanced software is OPhone 2.0, which is scheduled to be released in China next month.

In addition to standard Android features, OPhone OS 2.0 offers mobile TV support and Mobee, an RSS reader that has a Google Alerts-like feature that lets users track news using keywords or topics. Mobee allows users to chose a keyword that will be searched, transcoded, and turned into what Chan refers to as a "DIY newspaper" that strips ads from the news stories and shrinks pictures to better fit the smaller screen of a smartphone.

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