A little while ago, we ran an editorial on forking of Android and the issue of fragmentation. It seems this story has taken another twist over the last few days.
Acer — known to most Australians as makers of laptops, amongst other things — was planning to release a smartphone in partnership with Alibaba, a Chinese consortium, however it seems that Google put the kibosh on that idea.
You see, Acer’s smartphone was to run an operating system known as Aliyun. Aliyun is described by Acer as a Linux-based OS. However, Google has come out and labelled this OS as a non-compatible version of Android. When announcing the device’s launch would be delayed, Acer merely stated that Google had some concerns about the launch. Well, it seems that Google has come out with a more definitive 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.
When announcing Aliyun OS almost a year ago, Alibaba (behind Aliyun) was quoted as saying:
“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 didn’t end with the launch being canelled, however. Google went further, with Andy Rubin responding to claims by Alibaba Vice President John Spelich’s claims that Aliyun was not based on Android.
We agree that the Aliyun OS is not part of the Android ecosystem and you’re under no requirement to be compatible.
However, the fact is, Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps). So there’s really no disputing that Aliyun is based on the Android platform and takes advantage of all the hard work that’s gone into that platform by the OHA.
So if you want to benefit from the Android ecosystem, then make the choice to be compatible. [It’s] easy, free, and we’ll even help you out. But if you don’t want to be compatible, then don’t expect help from OHA members that are all working to support and build a unified Android ecosystem.
What this demonstrates is the difference between non-members of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) such as Amazon, which has developed an Android-based OS for its Kindle Fire line of devices, and members of the OHA (which Acer is). Google has stepped in, presumably to prevent forking of Android by those who are (theoretically) supposed to work against the issue of fragmentation.
It seems unlikely that Acer is going to be releasing this handset any time soon. Would they risk upsetting Google by pushing ahead despite the clear warnings? We doubt it. What do you think?