Earlier this week, Google forced Acer to drop the launch of a new phone hours before it was set to be revealed. The phone ran Aliyun OS, a new mobile OS created by Chinese internet giant Alibaba, a competitor to Android. When you look at it this way, Google sounds like a bully.
But it's not that simple, we've already detailed Google's explanation of the decision
, it said it wanted to prevent fragmentation of the Android ecosystem with the launch of an incompatible OS based on Android used by device makers that already have official Android devices.
The "based on Android" part is key as Google doesn't prevent phone makers from using competing OSes like Windows Phone, or Baidu or anything else. It does have a problem with those modifying Android and calling it their own though.
"We were surprised to read Alibaba Group's chief strategy officer Zeng Ming's quote 'We want to be the Android of China' when in fact the Aliyun OS incorporates the Android runtime and was apparently derived from Android," Andy Rubin wrote
"Based on our analysis of the apps available at http://apps.aliyun.com, the platform tries to, but does not succeed in being compatible," he explained.
This is why Google asked Acer to drop the Aliyun device. Being part of the OHA means that you can't ship an incompatible version of Android. That is to say, you can't fork Android and build your own version while also selling officially sanctioned Android devices.
Google makes it clear that manufacturers part of OHA can use any competing platforms in their other phones, that would be Windows Phone pretty much, but they can't use incompatible Android builds.
Ensuring that the Android ecosystem doesn't fragment even more seems like a worthy cause. But it still doesn't justify requiring manufacturers that all of their devices be based on the official Android.
Acer could have sold several official Android devices and a few Aliyun devices as well, as long as it didn't make the claim that the Aliyun ones had anything to do with Android.
Google walks a fine line with the "openness" of Android. While critics will seize this opportunity to call out Google's apparent hypocrisy, things aren't as clear cut. We explain here, in detail, why exactly Google's definition of "open" when it comes to Android may not be perfect
, but it's the best it can do.