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Google Pressured Acer/Alibaba Because of Android Compatibility Issues 255

Posted by Soulskill
from the reality-not-compatible-with-expectations dept.
An anonymous reader writes "On Thursday we discussed news that Google pressured Acer and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to cancel the launch of a phone running the Aliyun OS. Google has now addressed the issue, speaking out on the importance of compatibility for Android devices. Andy Rubin, who runs Android development at Google, said Aliyun was a non-compatible version of Android, which weakens the ecosystem. He pointed out that the Open Handset Alliance provides all the tools necessary to make it compatible. An Alibaba exec fired back, 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 is ironic that a company that talks freely about openness is espousing a closed ecosystem.'"
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Google Pressured Acer/Alibaba Because of Android Compatibility Issues

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  • by yincrash (854885) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:39AM (#41345881)
    It advertises that it runs Android applications?? That seems a little disingenuous as well.
    • by Compaqt (1758360) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:48AM (#41345925) Homepage

      And if Aliyun fails to run an Android application, customers will see Aliyun as bad, and the platform will not prosper. Problem solved. Why does Google have to play nanny?

      • by cslax (1215816) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:57AM (#41345987)
        Because people are dumb and will think that it is representative of Android as a whole.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by LordLimecat (1103839)

          I dont know that thats the customer being dumb. If they had an iPhone or Blackberry or something and were happy, and their first experience with "Android" was this Aliyun device, and it sucks..... seems to me "dumb" would be saying "oh well, ill just drop another $200 on another Android" rather than going back to what works.

          I got burned on the Motorola Admiral, which has a zillion issues (bad contacts app, bad dialer, poor responsiveness, generally hating touch-based OS); maybe its just the vendor specific

      • by yincrash (854885)
        Or they will think the android app developer is bad and will tell their friends who may have android phones that it's a crappy app.
      • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @02:17PM (#41347513)

        And if Aliyun fails to run an Android application, customers will see Aliyun as bad, and the platform will not prosper. Problem solved.

        And yet, that's not how people saw Java ME when they couldn't run downloaded Java ME applications on their device. In fact, if there is one distinguishing factor with Java ME, it's that one, it's the mandated compatibility test suite among different device manufacturers and carriers.

        Why does Google have to play nanny?

        Google is not playing nanny. Google is just watching out who it's partnering with. Acer and Alibaba are free to do what they want. It's not like Google is going to sue them anyhow. Why should Google be forced to provide technical assistance to a competing fork of theirs?

    • If it runs android applications, how is it disingenuous? Blackberry Playbook runs android applications. Is that disingenuous? Linux + Wine runs windows applications. Is that disingenuous?
    • by Frankie70 (803801) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:00AM (#41346011)

      It advertises that it runs Android applications?? That seems a little disingenuous as well

      http://www.winehq.org/about/ [winehq.org]

      Wine says it runs Windows Applications. It should be OK for Microsoft to pressure companies to not ship Wine to avoid compatibility issues.

      • It should be OK for Microsoft to pressure companies to not ship Wine to avoid compatibility issues.

        Well, it would be fine for Microsoft to make Windows code open and free for anybody to use however they want, but to make it a condition of a license to sell products with Windows branding that the entity with such a license not also sell product that isn't compatible with Windows that advertises itself as running Windows software.

        Surrendering what amounts to nominative fair use rights (which, absent any contr

      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @12:27PM (#41346873) Homepage Journal

        I'm pretty sure if Dell shipped machines with Windows, and other machines with a special version of Ubuntu that Can Run Windows Applications (ie Dell actually highlighted the point that this version of Ubuntu supposedly can run Windows apps), AND if Windows was an up and coming operating system, then yeah, I think Microsoft probably would pressurize Dell on that point.

        However, let's back up a bit because there are a bunch of people saying "This is just like when Microsoft...". No, it isn't. Here's why.

        1. Microsoft pressurized manufacturers irrespective of whether there was a Windows compatible API in the alternative operating systems. BeOS had no compatibility layer, I'm not even sure - today - that Wine is available, let alone anything else, and Microsoft did successfully pressurize its OEMs to not ship dual boot BeOS machines. Google has no problem with non-Android based OSes. HTC ships Windows phones, and is one of the leading Android partners, for example.
        2. Microsoft required OEMs pay per CPU shipped, not per copy of Windows. Google doesn't charge its partners a cent.
        3. Microsoft didn't form an open body of OEMs and software developers charged with steering Windows with a requirement that members of the body ship compatible versions of WIndows. Android is governed by such a body, and Acer is a member.
        4. If an OEM crossed Microsoft and had to ship a PC with Windows without Microsoft's blessing, it hurt the OEM, adding typically $100-150 to the cost of the PC. If Google refuses to cooperate, it arguably hurts Google more than the OEM, who's free to ship Android devices with competing app stores, at no charge.

        Let's stop pretending these events are even in the same ballpark. They're not. It surprises me that Google is doing this, but Google is well within its rights to do what it's done, both legally and morally.

    • by Americano (920576)

      So is Linux part of the Microsoft ecosystem on account of Wine? I'm curious how much of Linux you think Microsoft should control, since Windows apps will run on Linux - just a ballpark percentage is fine, just give us a feel for it.

  • If you want to create your own OS, no one is stopping you. If you want to use android, you have to agree to the terms of the license.
    • This isn't really about the license of Android (even though that's part of how this happened).

      They aren't violating the terms of the Android license, they're nearly getting themselves booted out of the inner circle of Android industry partners. They can keep doing what they're doing with Android, Google just won't help them or sell them support services for developing future products.

    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      If you want to use android, you have to agree to the terms of the license.

      Android's license is the Apache License. What terms of this license has Aliyun violated?

      • by yincrash (854885)
        While the GP is mostly wrong because that's not what the article is about, it appears that Aliyun has not released it's Linux source code which does violate the GPL that it is under.
      • Google Play Store's license is not the Apache license, and at least one major bank that I've contacted has expressed its lack of plans to make its check deposit application available anywhere but Google Play Store
        • by Frankie70 (803801)

          OP talks about license in relevance to Android - not Google Play Store.

          • by tepples (727027)
            Android as it is most commonly marketed to end users is Android with Gapps, not AOSP. Do most customers (other than hardcore geeks) buy Android devices for the apps that are included with AOSP, or do they buy Android devices for the apps that are available through Google Play Store?
  • Apparently the OS of this phone is a flavor of Android that runs Android apps. What happens if it runs them poorly? An uninformed customer starts bashing Acer, and Google(because it's a smartphone so it must be Google) China is a big market, so there's no doubt word would spread and just like that Android loses to Apple clones in what is possibly the biggest market.

    There are plenty of manufacturers that produce Android devices without Google's blessing. Archos is one that im familiar with. I had a handhe
    • Archos is one that im familiar with. I had a handheld much like an ipod touch. It came with android 2.1 or something like that and it didnt have the Market app. Instead Archos had a app store. By now the thing could probably use the Amazon app store or any one of them.

      I too have an Archos 43, which was Android's closest thing to an iPod touch until Samsung introduced the Galaxy Player. But just try to find certain apps, such as Chase Bank's check deposit app, on AppsLib, Amazon, or SlideME. Acer would have to convince each application publisher to make its applications available through a channel other than Google Play Store, or it would risk losing customers who rely on such apps to Acer's competitors who toe the google line.

    • by Karlt1 (231423)

      "Apparently the OS of this phone is a flavor of Android that runs Android apps. What happens if it runs them poorly?"

      In that case Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony and every other Android manufacturer that sells some lowend Android phones should be kicked out.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:01AM (#41346021) Homepage

    Please don't be evil.

    It's great that you invented Android. You also must have gotten a great payoff when Google bought Android. That's enough, isn't it?

    You cleverly screwed Sun out of a few millions of dollars licensing fees, which contributed to its downfall.

    Now your megalomania is leading you to beat up on an Android vendor that merely wants to experiment with an Android variant?

    • They are not experimenting, they are taking Android, making it not compatible with Android apps, and then advertising it as Android. That is extremely harmful to the product and system image Google has spent so long developing, and is basically stealing Google's work to compete with Google.

      If they want to release their fork of the code and a devkit for app developers to be able to make 'other android' compatible software, then they're experimenting.

      • by Compaqt (1758360) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @01:10PM (#41347169) Homepage

        I don't see "Android" at http://apps.aliyun.com/index.htm [aliyun.com], just APK, which can be considered generic.

        It's OK for Google to come up with "not Java", but it's not OK for Alibaba to come up with "not Android"?

        Also, your first sentence is quite ironic. Let me fix it:

        They are not experimenting, they are taking Java, making it not compatible with Java apps, and then advertising it as a form of Java. That is extremely harmful to the product and system image Sun has spent so long developing, and is basically stealing Sun's work
        to compete with Sun.

        What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Poetic justice for Google destroying Sun.

  • Ecosystem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rie Beam (632299) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:01AM (#41346025) Journal

    There's that word again. These "walled gardens" are more akin to zoos than true ecosystems -- all they offer is the convenience of finding the different flora and fauna together in one spot, with the restriction being how you interact with them. Some people could benefit from more direct interaction; still many others would be eaten by lions if given a chance.

  • Google's side (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Monoman (8745) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:02AM (#41346031) Homepage

    As I understand it Google's side of the story is they said something because Acer is a member of the Open Handset Alliance. Amazon is not a member of the AHA therefore Google hasn't said a thing to them.

    Read into it yourself YMMV.

  • by Bogtha (906264) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:05AM (#41346047)

    Andy Rubin, who runs Android development at Google, said Aliyun was a non-compatible version of Android, which weakens the ecosystem. He pointed out that the Open Handset Alliance provides all the tools necessary to make it compatible.

    No, what weakens the ecosystem are the Open Handset Alliance members who promise to keep their phones up to date, then renege.

    I bought an Xperia Pro in 2011 because Sony announced they'd be getting Android 4. It's currently running Android 2.3, released in 2010, because Sony have completely cocked up the rollout. The rollout started back in May, then mysteriously stopped. It might have something to do with it being so buggy it's unusable (hardcoded to AZERTY keyboards, even if you've got a QWERTY keyboard), but we have no way of knowing because Sony won't talk. They announced it was being rolled out a second time at the beginning of August, but there's no evidence of that in their shitty update software. Customer support stonewall, just saying that the rollout is ongoing. This isn't even for the latest version of Android, it's for last year's version.

    This is what's damaging the ecosystem. iOS developers can happily target iOS 5+, released a year ago, and get the vast majority of users (more than 80%). If you targeted the year old Android 4+, you'd only be getting about 22% [android.com] of users.

    • Fortunately, for those of us who only make less-complex software that isn't hardware dependent for these devices, we can just spend ~10 minutes recompiling for a new Android OS. This easily keeps a compatible copy of our app available for each version of Android, regardless of what the user chooses for their home device. My phone still runs Android 2.2, and I have no problems with apps.

  • Like dogs fighting over the scraps below the table.

    They should be fighting for what is on TOP.

  • by dell623 (2021586) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:22AM (#41346139)

    They build an open source operating system. When they refuse to release Honeycomb, people start claiming they're going back on the open source commitment. They release ICS and JB source code less than a week after the official announcement. They literally give Android away for free - http://twitter.com/Arubin/status/27808662429 [twitter.com]

    Yet they get far more criticism than Microsoft and Apple running increasingly closed ecosystems. They get blamed for Android fragmentation. Now, when they decide to do something about fragmentation, they get blamed again. It's pretty simple isn't it, you join OHA and you maintain compatibility with Android. Or you don't, like Amazon, and take the source code for free and whatever the hell you want with it. Is that really so onerous for Acer?

    When Android OEMs get sued with crap patents, Google gets blamed. Even when it's Samsung, a far bigger company who is making the majority of profits off Android (Google isn't making nearly as much), Google is somehow supposed to show up and save the day for them. When Google registers patents of their own, every time there's a Slashdot story about the pot calling the kettle black although Google have NEVER used patents to sue anyone except in retaliation, not their search patents, not their Hadoop, Mapreduce, etc. patents.

    If you're an Android device used, you should be glad Google is doing this. The last thing we need is another Amazon. Try playing with a Kindle Fire - Amazon completely skinned Amazon and made it incompatible with normal Android apps. I have tried putting many in through apks, most install but almost none work properly. Despite coming with a powerful dual core processor, the devices are terribly slow and laggy. The browser is awful compared to Chrome or Safari on mobile devices. They could have gone with a completely skinned version of compatible Android, with their own skin but retain compatibility with apps. Instead, we get different versions of Android apps for the Kindle Fire. I am not sure this even works in Amazon's favour, they could still have sold all the content and made proper tablets offering real tablet functionality, not glorified content consumption devices with terribly proprietary software.

    Here's the kicker:
    You don't have to pay Google a cent to retain Android compatibility. Amazon could do exactly what they are doing now: run their own app store instead of using Google Play, use Nokia maps, use Bing as the default search engine, put their own browser in that tracks all websites you visit. Google's own Motorola branded handset, the RAZR M ships with the Amazon app store installed. I don't know why Google let this happen, it makes no business sense. But it's good for us consumers, you don't even have to be tied to the Google Play store.

  • by Michalson (638911) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @11:35AM (#41346553)
    In the 90s Microsoft was accused of and then convicted of monopoly behavoir against OEMs to push OS/2 (and other PC OSs) out of the market in favor of Windows.

    Back then Microsoft provided 3 choices for OEMs:
    • 1. Don't play with Microsoft at all (sell PCs with OS/2 or other OS, operate as a niche dealer)
    • 2. Play with Microsoft but without a club membership (buy Windows licences at full price, sell however they want)
    • 3. Join Microsoft's club (get discounted licences but pay them on a basis of one licence per computer regardless of actual configuration)

    Microsoft argued that this was not anti-competitive; they claimed the discount simply represented Microsoft not having to keep track of individual licences and that OEMs where free to buy licences individually instead. They lost that argument because it was found that since Windows already had a majority market share (for the time being) an OEM had to load Windows on a majority of their systems to satisfy consumers. Because of the pricing scheme OEMs could not be competitive with other OEMs if they took option 2, forcing them into 3 where Microsoft's terms made it uncompetitive to sell PCs with another operating systems. So Microsoft was convicted under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

    Let's look at Google and its club the Open Handset Alliance (OHA):

    • 1. Don't use any official Android distributions (operate as a niche/self-supported market, ie. Amazon)
    • 2. Use any combination of Android and forked android-derived distributions, but can't join the OHA
    • 3. Join the OHA and use only an official Google Android derived OS

    The official Android distribution can be seen as something wanted by the majority of customers (looking for a non-Apple/Microsoft or a inexpensive phone) at this time (unless you have something else big enough to get people to come to you, like Amazon) so most Android/android OEMs would be giving up the majority of their customers if they dumped official Android entirely; that removes option 1. Much like the licence discount a membership in the OHA represents a major competitive advantage - the OEMs are already way behind in keeping official Android up to date in their design and production pipelines even with that inside track and help from Google. An OEM on its own trying to make an official Android device is thus at a large disadvantage against OEMs that are part of the OHA. This makes option 2 uncompetitive, forcing any serious OEM into option 3. Option 3 goes even farther then Microsoft in the 90s - it doesn't just apply a tax, it outright bans the alternative.

    So does the same 90s logic applied by the court - that regardless of Microsoft/Google's excuse for the 3 choices it isn't really a choice at all, and that the only viable choice blocks competition - still apply today?

    • by dell623 (2021586) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @12:06PM (#41346747)

      You've got several things wrong..


      1. Don't use any official Android distributions (operate as a niche/self-supported market, ie. Amazon)
      2. Use any combination of Android and forked android-derived distributions, but can't join the OHA
      3. Join the OHA and use only an official Google Android derived OS

      That's completely wrong.

      You have several choices:

      1) Develop an Android compatible device [android.com], compatible with existing Android applications, and don't pay a cent to Google or anyone else for Android.

      Sell your devices with getjar app store, Amazon app store, Bing as default search, Nokia maps, change the UI, whatever the hell you want as long as you don't break compatibility.

      2) Do 1) and also join OHA. Still don't pay a cent to Google, still sell your devices with getjar app store, Amazon app store, Bing as default search, Nokia maps, change the UI, whatever the hell you want as long as you don't break compatibility.

      3) Do 1) and 2) and also license Google applications and the Google Play app store.

      4) Use the open source Android code (definition of open [twitter.com]) and do whatever the hell you want with it like Amazon, modify it, make it incompatible with Google's Store and current Android applications, don't pay anything to Google, don't join the OHA, get the source code for new versions of Android soon after Google announces them, make your own app store.

      Acer chose option 3) for their current devices. Google said if they're doing option 4) with Alibaba, they cannot also do option 2) and/or 3). And Acer made their choice, nothing was forced on them. All Google could do was force Acer to leave the OHA and refuse to license Google Play and other Google applications to them. Acer could still make Android compatible devices, even continue to sell their current devices with the Amazon app store for example. They chose to remain part of the OHA.

      the OEMs are already way behind in keeping official Android up to date in their design and production pipelines even with that inside track and help from Google. An OEM on its own trying to make an official Android device is thus at a large disadvantage against OEMs that are part of the OHA.

      That's simply not true. Some of the first non Google devices to come out with Android 4.0 were from Chinese low end manufacturers who are not part of the OHA, much before the bigger well known OHA members. That was because the OEMs insist on customizing their devices to distinguish them from stock Android. And far from being uncompetitive, those manufacturers have been incredibly successful. Some have gone on to license Google Play and Google Apps. Want to beat Google? Make your own app store and your own apps that are better than Google's proprietary apps like Maps Gmail etc. Amazon are trying. Acer didn't want to take up that challenge. No one forced Acer to do anything. They made a choice.

  • Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Blic (672552) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @12:50PM (#41347033)

    What's not clear to me is how the Alibaba handset is positioned. Google is claiming it's an Android fork that will fragment the ecosystem, and Alibaba seems to be claiming it's not part of the ecosystem. Is Alibaba being disingenuous here?

    While everyone's Microsoft analogies sound good, they don't really work - because if they were true Google would have kicked Acer out of the OHA for making a Windows phone...

    Now if Acer and Alibaba were trying to position their device as an Android phone, and it broke the ecosystem in many ways I could understand Google's behavior. But if it's more of an Amazon thing and Alibaba doesn't want or need anything from Google, then Google really does come off as kind of an asshole by punishing Acer's other business which does comply. That's a classic monopolistic strategy.

    In any I guess we all know there's a difference between being truly "Open" and just making the source code available...

    • While everyone's Microsoft analogies sound good, they don't really work - because if they were true Google would have kicked Acer out of the OHA for making a Windows phone...

      Or they knew Windows Phone is not going to take of any time soon. Aliyun though is already very popular in China, and is a much much bigger threat than Windows Phone.

  • (Warning: rant below)

    When this story first appeared here, everybody was screaming left and right that the information was unsubstantiated, that there was no (reliable) source, and that Google couldn't have done something like this. That gave me a good laugh. They completely ignored the "no comment" part from Acer (not Asus) and Google, which should say to anyone who's listening with half an ear that the events were most likely true, but the mouthpieces needed to wait for the PR department to decide on how t

  • by Skythe (921438) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @03:14PM (#41355549)
    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.

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