updated 02:25 pm EDT, Sat September 15, 2012
Aliyun said to contain Android runtime, violate OHA rules
Representatives from Google have now confirmed that the company did indeed pressure Taiwanese manufacturer Acer to drop plans to release a smartphone running Chinese e-retailer Alibaba's cloud-based Aliyun operating system. A series of statements from the search giant yesterday, including a Google+ post from Andy Rubin, explained Google's action as a means of ensuring that its manufacturing partners adhered to the rules of the Open Handset Alliance, the consortium of carriers and device manufacturers supporting Google's Android platform. Google's decision to get Acer to drop the CloudMobile A800 could have repercussions throughout the mobile sector, as it signals that the search company is willing to pressure its partners into ensuring that forked versions of Android do not supplant the core version produced by Google.
Up until Thursday, Acer had been readying to launch the CloudMobile A800, a mid-range handset that would come in two versions: the model released to the Chinese market would run Alibaba's Aliyun OS, while the internationally-released version would run Android. Members of the press showed up to Acer's planned launch event for the A800 only to find that the company had scuttled the phone, saying only that it would be having discussions with Google and that it still hoped to release the phone.
In a post on the company's news site, Alibaba said the cancellation grew out of Google's pressure on Acer to drop the phone. Initially, nether Google nor Acer would confirm or deny Alibaba's version of events.
The statement from Google now confirms Alibaba's accusation, though the search company holds it was within its rights to have done so. Acer is a member of the Open Handset Alliance, and the OHA's guidelines forbid members from manufacturing devices to run forked or derived version of the Android OS.
Speaking with Tech In Asia, Alibaba's vice president of international corporate affairs, John Spelich, countered Google's assertion:
"Aliyun OS is not part of the Android ecosystem so of course Aliyun OS is not and does not have to be compatible with Android. It is ironic that a company that talks freely about openness is espousing a closed system."
Alibaba claims that its Aliyun OS is based on Linux and not directly derived from Google's Android. Google's Rubin, however, contends in his post that Aliyun "incorporates the Android runtime and was apparently derived from Android." Google has reportedly run tests on the apps available at Aliyun's app store, finding that the platform "tries to, but does not succeed in being compatible."
Google's move may bring it into greater conflict with the Chinese government. The continuing openness of the Android platform was a point of emphasis for the Chinese when they gave their assent to Google's acquisition of Motorola. Should Google be perceived to be using its power to squash competition, particularly in the Chinese market, that could be cause for even more troubles between the search giant and the Chinese government.