There’s drama in the Android world between Acer and Google as the former wants a better definition of Android and the latter wants to firmly control the platforms their partners can run. All of this after Acer cancels the launch of its Alibaba-developed OS as Google is under fire for using “heavy-handed” tactics to control its rivals.
So what’s the backstory? Acer had plans to launch a low-end smartphone in China running Aliyun OS, a linux based operating that’s not Android related. The phone was targeted for the low-end Chinese market and wasn’t meant to distract from any of Acer’s Android obligations. Acer partnered with Alibaba, a large e-commerce firm in China to manufacturer the phone. In the days leading up to the unveiling Acer sent out invites to a press event. Come event day and as press and other attendees are beginning to show up, they are barred from entering the venue.
Alibaba, Acer’s partner laid the blame on Google:
“Our partner received notification from Google that if the new product launch with Aliyun went ahead, Google would terminate Android product cooperation and related technical authorization with Acer.”
So, at this point in the story we have Google supposedly threatening Acer with the termination of their cooperation if they launch a non-Android product. In response to the accusation that Google was using strong arm tactics to keep it’s open handset alliance partners in line, they issued the following statement:
Compatibility is at the heart of the Android ecosystem and ensures a consistent experience for developers, manufacturers and consumers. Non-compatible versions of Android, like Aliyun, weaken the ecosystem. All members of the Open Handset Alliance have committed to building one Android platform and to not ship non-compatible Android devices. This does not however, keep OHA members from participating in competing ecosystems.
So what about Windows Phone? Apparently Windows Phone falls into the “competing ecosystem” for obvious reasons, but not Aliyun. Google says that when the Open Handset Alliance was put together, all partners signed a “non-fragmentation agreement.”
Moving forward, Google’s Android chief Andy Rubin issued both an official blog post on the company’s Android page and a Google+ post on his own personal page. It appears that Rubin is attempting to explain Google’s position in the sense that Aliyun was derived from Android as it shares some of the Android runtime, but isn’t compatible with Android overall, which is the backbone of the problem at hand
Alibaba took time more than a year ago to point out that the Android app compatibility feature had come from its own work, not Google’s. Google’s concern is that these attempts can weaken the Android platform as it shows “incompatibilities between implementations of Android.” That’s a sensible argument, even if Google’s tactics seem to be questionable. The obvious scenario here is that the system can’t be based on a weak link and offer consumers a bad experience because of incompatibility or poor implementation of a basic function.
The heart of the issue seems to rest on whether Aliyun really exists as a forked part of Android or if it was built from the ground up and is Linux-based, which would allow it to exist not as part of the Open Handset alliance.
For now, we’ll be interested to see how all of this plays out and whether Google’s position, which at first glance appears to have them looking like a bully, may actually be in the best interest of both the Open Handset Alliance and customers as a whole.