By Alexandra Burlacu | Sep 17, 2012 10:01 AM EDT
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba was about to make its big mobile phone breakthrough, launching a smartphone running on Aliyun, Alibaba's own cloud-based, open-source mobile operating system. On Thursday, Sept. 13, Taiwanese computer and phone vendor Acer was set to unveil a new smartphone running on Aliyun, aimed at the huge Chinese market.
The event was scheduled, the space was booked, the corporate logos were set, and the press release was ready to go online. Alibaba's in-house blog, Alizia, was about to publish enthusiastic comments from Acer's CEO J.T. Wang. Journalists had been invited to see the new Acer handset running on Alibaba's Aliyun software.
At the last minute, however, the media were told that the launch had been cancelled. Alibaba issued a statement later, accusing online giant Google, the maker of the rival Android platform, of intimidating Acer into backing off.
"Our partner received notification from Google that if the new product with Aliyun went ahead, Google would terminate Android product cooperation and related technical authorization with Acer," Alibaba's Cloud Computing unit said in a statement emailed to CNET. "We respect and understand our partner's decision to postpone the introduction of the phone, and are dismayed by the impact this dispute has had on our partner."
Meanwhile, the BBC reached out to Google for a statement, and was referred to Acer. A spokeswoman for Acer could not confirm the cause of the cancellation, but provided a statement.
"Regarding the abrupt cancellation of yesterday's press conference with Alibaba in China, Acer expresses deep regret and sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused to our media friends," the spokeswoman told the BBC. "Acer will continue working with its strategic partners in China to create improved product and service offerings, and looks forward to sharing the results of our win-win developments in the near future."
Open Handset Alliance and the Android Ecosystem
Google's response came on Friday, Sept. 14, with Android chief Andy Rubin dismissing claims that Google forced Acer to drop a rival operating system. In a Friday blog post on the company's social network, Google+, Rubin said that Alibaba's Aliyun platform is a forked version of Android, modified to such extent that it is incompatible with Android devices. Rubin further noted that Acer is forbidden from using such an operating system because it is a member of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA).
"Compatibility is at the heart of the Android ecosystem and ensures a consistent experience for developers, manufacturers, and consumers," Google told CNET. "Non-compatible versions of Android, like Aliyun, weaken the ecosystem."
Alibaba fired back the same day, providing a response to Rubin's post.
"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," said John Spelich, Alibaba's vice president of corporate affairs. "It is ironic that a company that talks freely about openness is espousing a closed ecosystem."
Customized Versions vs. OHA
Any company can create a highly customized or forked version of Android. Amazon, for instance, uses its own customized version of Android, which is not compatible with other Android devices. The difference, however, is that companies under the OHA, which Acer is a part of, but Amazon and Alibaba are not, are obliged to run versions of Android that are compatible with its ecosystem, Google explained.
Under the Open Handset Alliance rules, other OHA members, including Samsung, are forbidden to use heavily customized versions of Android to stand out and further differentiate themselves. Samsung, for instance, is not allowed to use Android to build its own mobile OS.
Google further argued that while Alibaba has built its own OS, it took elements of Android to build Aliyun.
"We were surprised to read Alibaba Group's chief strategy officer Zeng Ming's quite 'We want to be the Android of China' when in fact the Aliyun OS incorporates the Android runtime and was apparently derived from Android," said Rubin. "Based on our analysis of the apps available at http://apps.aliyun.com, the platform tries to, but does not succeed in being compatible."
© 2013 Mobile & Apps All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.