Alibaba: Google just plain wrong about our OS

The Chinese search giant says Google is "just speculating" about its Aliyun operating system, and insists it's different than Android.

Google

Chinese search giant Alibaba is disputing Google's claim that Alibaba's new Aliyun operating system is a forked and incompatible version of Android and thus can't be used by phone maker Acer.

In a blog post yesterday, Google's Andy Rubin said "the Aliyun OS incorporates the Android runtime and was apparently derived from Android."

CNET asked Alibaba's John Spelich about Rubin's/Google's claims and about whether there are elements of Android in Aliyun, and here's what we got in response: "They have no idea and are just speculating. Aliyun is different."

Google took some heat earlier this week for seemingly using its clout to squash a burgeoning mobile OS. Alibaba, an e-commerce company, is known as the Google of China, and wanted to follow Google's playbook and build its own OS. Acer was set to include the OS in a handset , but those plans were apparently scuttled by Google, which said that while Alibaba built its own OS, it lifted elements of Android .

But Spelich told CNET in an e-mail that Aliyun is "not a fork. Ours is built on open-source Linux." And he added that Aliyun "has our own applications. [It's] designed to run cloud apps designed in our own ecosystem. [It] can run some but not all Android apps."

He said Aliyun incorporates its own virtual machine, which is different from Android's Dalvik virtual machine.

"Aliyun'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," he said. "Aliyun OS uses some of the Android application framework and tools (open source) merely as a patch to allow Aliyun O-S users to enjoy third-party apps in addition to the cloud-based Aliyun apps in our ecosystem."

He also accused the Android ecosystem of being closed and restrictive:

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.

Alibaba accused Google on Thursday of forcing Acer to drop its support of Aliyun . Acer had originally scheduled a press conference that day to show off the first Aliyun-powered smartphone but was told by Google that the Android maker would cease providing its support if Acer followed through. As a result, the conference was halted.

Alibaba cried foul. "Our partner was notified by Google that if the product runs Aliyun OS, Google will terminate its Android-related cooperation and other technology licensing with our partner," Alibaba said in a statement e-mailed to CNET on Thursday.

The accusation prompted Rubin to call out Aliyun as a forked version of Android that's modified to the extent that it's incompatible with other Android devices. As a member of the Open Handset Alliance, Acer is forbidden from using such an operating system, he said.

"Compatibility is at the heart of the Android ecosystem and ensures a consistent experience for developers, manufacturers, and consumers," Google said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. "Noncompatible versions of Android, like Aliyun, weaken the ecosystem."

We've contacted Google for a response to Spelich's claim that Aliyun is not a forked version of Android, and we'll update this post when we hear back. (Note: See updates below.)

CNET's Roger Cheng contributed to this report.

Update, 12:41 p.m. PT: A Google spokesman responded to our e-mail about Spelich's claim, saying simply, "Won't be able to add more detail than Andy's post (which is pretty straightforward)."

Update, 3:17 p.m. PT: The Google spokesman e-mailed again to clarify that he meant a more recent post from Rubin. That post reads:

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. 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.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. PT 9/16 with expanded Alibaba comment.
About the author

Edward Moyer is an associate editor at CNET News and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch.

 

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