Google blocked Acer smartphone on Android incompatibility concerns

Acer abruptly canceled a launch of a new smartphone in China on Thursday, without clearly saying why

Google responded to allegations it stopped the launch of a new Acer smartphone in China, by stating that the handset's Chinese-developed mobile OS was "apparently derived" from Android, but still not fully compatible with the Android ecosystem and its apps.

Taiwanese PC maker Acer was originally scheduled to launch a new smartphone on Thursday that was to use the Aliyun OS, a Linux-based mobile operating system developed by a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. But the launch event for the device was abruptly canceled, with no clear word from Acer on why.

Alibaba, however, quickly responded and alleged that Google had threatened to revoke Acer's license to use Android if it went ahead with the launch of the Aliyun OS smartphone.

Google initially declined to comment on the matter. But on Saturday, Andy Rubin, head of the company's Android development team, addressed some of the controversy in a blog post and also on his Google+ page. He alleged the Aliyun OS was based on Android, but incompatible with the Android ecosystem.

The Google led Open Handset Alliance, of which Acer is a member, is meant to promote the development of Android. Members are restricted from building handsets that use incompatible versions of Android.

"While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem," Rubin wrote. "By joining the Open Handset Alliance, each member contributes to and builds one Android platform -- not a bunch of incompatible versions."

A Google spokesman also confirmed that the company did indeed alert Acer that it was launching a phone using an allegedly incompatible version of Android. But the spokesman declined to offer specifics and if Google threatened to revoke Acer's license to use Android.

In response to Rubin's statements, Alibaba Group spokesman John Spelich said in an email it was ironic Google talked about openness, but still promoted a closed system with its Android OS.

"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," he said. "This is like saying that because they own the Googleplex in Mountain View, therefore anyone who builds in Mountain View is part of the Googleplex. Will someone please ask Google to define Android?"

The Aliyun OS was launched last year, but currently is only being used on phones from two Chinese handset vendors, Tianyu and Haier. Acer would have provided backing from a better-known vendor.

Acer could not be reached for immediate comment. But in a statement issued on Friday, Acer said it would continue to work with its strategic partners in China to create improved products and services.

Rubin added in his postings, that it would be "easy" for an operating system to become Android compatible, suggesting that Acer could still launch its new smartphone if changes are made to the Aliyun OS.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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