Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google and Alibaba Continue Warring Over Acer Phone

Google and Alibaba are none too happy with each other this weekend after last week’s launch event in Shanghai for a new smartphone with Acer hardware and Alibaba software was postponed.

Google says that Alibaba’s Aliyun operating system is built on top of Android but is not compatible with Android, so Acer shouldn’t get to benefit from being part of the Android Open Handset Alliance. Alibaba says Aliyun is not an Android fork, nor is it part of the Android ecosystem. Acer is basically staying quiet.

After John Spelich, Alibaba’s VP of international corporate affairs, gave multiple comments about the irony of Android’s closed approach to openness, Android head Andy Rubin fought back on Saturday with an official blog post and personal Google+ post.

Of those, the Google+ post was spicier, so here it is:

Hey John Spelich — 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. Its 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.

And here are Spelich’s comments, sent via email:

Aliyun is built on open source Linux. It has our own applications (e.g. email, maps, etc.) Designed to run Cloud apps designed by parties in our own ecosystem It has the ability to run some but not all Android apps. But it is not an Android fork.

It is ironic that a company that talks freely about openness is espousing a closed ecosystem. 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. 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?

Aliyun is an open source based OS that is also an open ecosystem that allows others to host their mobile-enabled web sites in our cloud and we make those web sites available to users who use Aliyun OS phones. So we are an ecosystem that includes other Internet companies, whereas Android does not because it provides apps through downloads. It’s the crux of the whole cloud vs. app debate. Cloud is open, apps system is closed because it is controlled by the operator of the apps marketplace. So you see: two competing ecosystems, one that’s open through the cloud, the other is closed and restricts users to only the apps that they want you to see.

Spelich added in a follow-up note: “Aliyun OS incorporates its own virtual machine, which is different from Android’s Dalvik virtual machine. Aliyun OS’s runtime environment, which is the core of the OS, consists of both its own Java virtual machine, which is different from Android’s Dalvik virtual machine, and its own cloud app engine, which supports HTML5 web applications. Aliyun OS uses some of the Android application framework and tools (open source) merely as a patch to allow Aliyun OS users to enjoy third-party apps in addition to the cloud-based Aliyun apps in our ecosystem.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik