Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has officially stepped into the cloud storage race in China, as it announced today that it is acquiring personal cloud storage service Kanbox for an undisclosed amount.

Alibaba is also directly competing with rivals Tencent and Baidu in terms of storage space, as it is offering up to 10TB worth of free cloud storage — just like what Tencent has done with its storage service. Comparatively, Baidu has given away a mere 1TB worth of free space.

Users get up to 10TB worth of free cloud storage on Kanbox once they link their Laiwang account to their Kanbox account. Laiwang is Alibaba’s chat app, which the company has been pushing hard to promote in the crowded field of social networking and messaging services.

Alibaba may have a cloud computing unit Aliyun, but that deals mainly with businesses and governments. It has long had a gap to fill by not offering storage services for typical consumers — unlike its rivals Tencent and Baidu.

Kanbox has more than 15 million users now and behaves in a similar way to Dropbox. Basically it offers an app that can be downloaded onto PCs or mobile devices, letting users upload, download and sync personal files such as photos and other media across different devices.

As Alibaba is known mainly for e-commerce, Kanbox also has its uses such as offering vendors on its Taobao Marketplace a way to store large numbers of product photos and other website images, the company says.

Besides offering storage services for its users though, Alibaba notes that one of its purposes in acquiring Kanbox is to boost its mobile efforts. About 3 million Kanbox users are accessing the service via mobile devices. An Alibaba spokeswoman says:

Personal cloud storage will be a fundamental service for mobile users in the future and will serve as an important touch-point to reach a wider user population.

We believe this type of service is synergistic with our existing suite of mobile applications and ecosystem.

In essence, Alibaba wants to develop something like Apple’s iCloud service, as it is planning for Kanbox to become a mobile cloud storage service that will let users back up their mobile data, such as contacts and text messages, on remote servers.

Headline image via Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images