Google exec Andy Rubin has defended his advertising giant's decision to block Acer from launching a mobile phone for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, claiming the Android ecosystem is quite fragmented enough.
The phone was supposed to launch on Friday, but hours before the event Acer, the handset's manufacturer, pulled out saying that Google had threatened to kick it out of the Android club if the launch went ahead. That was acutely embarrassing for Alibaba, and perhaps fatal for its mobile operating system, and Google's justification won't help either cause.
Alibaba's Linux-based platform is called Aliyun OS, and the company had hopes of competing with Google's Linux-powered Android, which is rapidly gaining ground in China. But Google's decision to prevent members of the Open Handset Alliance (the nominal owner of Android) from making Aliyun handsets leaves Alibaba in a dead end in what appears, at a glance, to be clear abuse of market power.
Google's response is to argue that while Aliyun isn't Android it does make use of Android frameworks and tools, and includes an Android runtime which has really upset the Googleplex:
"Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps)," says the blog posting from Andy Rubin, concluding: "If you don't want to be compatible, then don't expect help from OHA members."
But those members include just about every handset manufacturer, in China and beyond. TechInAsia points out that one would be hard-pressed to find a manufacturer that isn't signed up to the OHA, and thus under the influence of Google's ecosystem.
Rubin's point is underlined with a longer posting which talks about the advantages of compatibility, without referencing Alibaba, making it clear that the Android OS is open, it's just not that open, as "that" would be a step too far. TechInAsia argues that Google should see Alibaba in court – as the Android frameworks and runtime have ample copyright and patent protection – but that Google instead decided to lean on the manufacturer in a way which seems rather insidious.
So perhaps it is the way in which Google killed off Aliyun, rather than the act of killing it off, which should be the biggest concern here. ®