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Google slams Aliyun version of Android as incompatible

Google has explained why it gave Acer an ultimatum over a new handset running a modded version of Android.

Google's Android supremo, Andy Rubin, has responded to critics who said the big G stopped Acer from launching a phone running a rival operating system.

Acer was set to announce a new mobile running the Aliyun OS -- a heavily modified version of Android. But Google cried foul, and said it would stop supporting Acer if it went ahead. In other words, Acer wouldn't be able to make Android smarties. So what reason does Rubin give for the ultimatum? Compatibility is the issue, apparently.

Aliyun (made by Chinese company Alibaba) isn't compatible with Android apps, according to Google's tests. As a member of the Open Handset Alliance, Acer has an obligation to stay compatible or it'll be cut off. Google made this clear, and Acer cancelled Thursday's press conference where it would have announced its Aliyun-powered handset.

"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," Rubin wrote in a blog post.

"Based on our analysis of the apps available at, the platform tries to, but does not succeed in being compatible."

Google also said in an emailed statement to our sister site CNET in the US: "Compatibility is at the heart of the Android ecosystem and ensures a consistent experience for developers, manufacturers, and consumers. Non-compatible versions of Android, like Aliyun, weaken the ecosystem."

Alibaba wasn't best pleased with Acer's volte-face.

"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," said John Spelich, vice president of international corporate affairs for Alibaba. "It is ironic that a company that talks freely about openness is espousing a closed ecosystem."

It's a bit of a murky one. Amazon uses its own version of Android on its Kindle Fire tablets, and isn't a member of the Open Handset Alliance. So not all companies using Android need to abide by Google's rules.

Is Google right to give Acer the ultimatum? Will too many heavily modified versions of Android weaken the ecosystem? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.