A Chinese iPhone clone that runs Linux?

A Chinese company called Meizu is trying to copy Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone design and built a version that runs Linux, according to this story on the Popular Science site.

The phone, called the miniOne, apparently can run popular cell phone applications though an open-source operating system. Unfortunately, the PopSci story is really one of a wild goose chase; though the author goes all the way to China to see the knockoff, it never surfaces. As a sort of consolation prize, he spins an interesting tale charting the evolution of the Chinese electronics cloning industry.

Though there will surely be several iPhone knockoffs coming from China, I think there’s little reason for worry from Apple and AT&T (T); at the heart of the iPhone is Apple’s OS X operating system and other proprietary software that will be extremely difficult to copy at a large scale. (Ever wonder why there are so few decent knockoff iMacs?)

Still, the knockoff news is further evidence that the iPhone’s successful launch will have global implications. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – and in the gadget business, it’s often not a bad gauge of demand, either.

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