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.

Rubin said:

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?

Source: Compilation of news reported by CNet, The Verge and others..
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Geoff Fieldew

I think Acer may have had a momentary brain fade here.

Alan Lin

I would recommend reading this article that talks about aliyun having pirated android apps. I can’t believe that Acer, a respected manufacturer would openly partner with a company that steals apps from android developers



I can’t help but wonder what on earth could be missing from the Android ecosystem that would require a fork and incompatibility of Android. In my eyes, it would have to be a pretty big deal for Acer – a member of the OHA – to go ahead and do this…surely this is not something that anyone would do lightly? Regardless, I think I think it is pretty poor form for a member of the OHA to do this. This is almost to the point of internal sabotage, and it surprised me that they can do it and remain in… Read more »

Greg Bell

What is missing is a strong revenue stream for content providers and data analyzers other than Google. That’s why Amazon has their own version that gives easier access to their own content and routes your browsing through their servers (optionally) for their data compilation convenience.

It makes sense that Alibaba, which is something like a Chinese Amazon, would do the same. The only difference is that unlike Amazon, they’ve decided not to do the device manufacture themselves, but to rely on OEMs.