He is often labelled ‘The Steve Jobs of China’ and now there is another reason to liken Jack Ma to the recently passed Apple legend after it was confirmed that Alibaba, Ma’s firm, will introduce a tablet device to rival the iPad in China.

The device, which will launch by the end of the year, according to Alibaba CTO Wang Jiang, will run on Aliyun, the Linux-based operating system that Alibaba announced in July, and be manufactured by Tianyu.

Chinese consumers are already familiar with Tianyu and Aliyun after having used the Tianyu-manufactured K-Touch W700, which became the first Aliyun-running device earlier this year. The phone retails at $416 but the cost of the tablet has not yet been disclosed.

Alibaba enjoys a strong presence across many of China’s commercial areas and, while many details of the proposed device are as yet unknown, it is safe to assume that the tablet will have strong links to Alibaba’s online commerce, retail and payment platforms and cloud computing services.

Given that the industry’s leading OSes are deployed on both smartphones and tablets, the introduction of the ‘YanPad’, as it has been unofficially dubbed, is of little surprise. The question is whether it can compete for attention alongside Apple’s iPad, the growing range of Android-powered tablets and other lower cost devices.

China has become Apple’s second largest market. The company enjoys a strong presence amongst Chinese consumers, as demonstrated by the success of its Shanghai Apple store and its location in neighbouring Hong Kong, and seems to be beating the once strong counterfeit market to establish itself as an enormously desireable brand in the country.