SEOUL - Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, China's largest online trading company, on Wednesday met with Samsung Electronics executives including mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun.
While Samsung remained tight-lipped on the matter, sources said the two sides had much to talk about, including Alibaba's ambitions to manufacture its own version of the Google Glass - a wearable computer fitted with an optical head-mounted display that is to serve as a ubiquitous computer.
Alibaba has been quietly building the device and is reportedly looking to commercialise the product in the mid- or long-term future, for which it will need the support of many IT companies including Samsung.
"There are memory chips, displays and other types of hardware that are needed for this to work," said one source close to the matter, declining to be identified.
If Samsung does agree to provide its technology, things could get a bit tricky since the Alibaba device would be going directly against Google, Samsung's most critical partner that provides operating systems for its smartphones.
Samsung has been repeatedly silencing rumours that there may be a falling out with Google since Samsung is anxious to have an operating system of its own, which is why it has been working on the Tizen OS.
However, the operating system itself will be a problem since Alibaba will need one to run its device on -- something Samsung can't provide.
"Tizen may be one solution, but whether it will be mature enough is another difficult issue," said another industry watcher.
Assuming that the Alibaba version of the Google Glass will provide bluetooth, communication networks will also be necessary, the watchers said.
Ma is said to have met with officials and executives of telecom companies here such as KT, along with Naver, the largest search engine during his visit.
Alibaba, first established in 1999 by Ma, has a number of sales platforms that together in past year recorded sales of more than 170 trillion won (S$200 billion) to step past eBay. On Nov 11 - China's Singles' Day designed to celebrate the bachelor life - Alibaba broke its daily sales record with over US$5.75 billion (S$7.2 billion).
Alibaba also received investment from SoftBank in Japan, and Ma is currently a board member with the institution. He is said to be close friends with SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, and also with other global IT heavyweights including Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft.
Alibaba currently already uses big data to store merchant and customer-behaviour records that allow it to see cash flow, supplier and customer names, and also whether a business' sales are growing.