Google explains why it stopped Acer smartphone launch and importance of compatibility in Android

In the wake of recent Acer’s Aliyun issue, Google has come forward to explain why it stopped the Acer smartphone launch and has also reiterated the benefits and importance of compatibility in Android.

Just to give a quick backgrounder, Acer was planning to launch a smartphone in Chinese market, which was powered was Alibaba’s Aliyun OS. Aliyun is allegedly a forked or incompatible version of Android similar to what is used by Amazon in Kindle Fire. It seems Google objected to Acer’s launch given that Acer is a member of Open Handset Alliance that works for driving the whole Android ecosystem and Acer postponed the launch without any definite dates.

“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,” Google told WSJ in a statement.

On the other hand, Alibaba isn’t happy with either Google’s calling of Aliyun as an incompatible version of Android or even stopping the Acer smartphone launch. Alibaba’s VP of international corporate affairs, John Spelich told Tech In Asia:

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.

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?

On the other hand, given the media attention the matter has got, Google’s Andy Rubin has posted the company thoughts on the incompatibility and Android on the official Android blog.

“While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem. By joining the Open Handset Alliance, each member contributes to and builds one Android platform — not a bunch of incompatible versions,” he noted clearly referring to Acer in the last line.

He even gave an example to justify the issues with encouraging the incompatible versions of Android –

Imagine a hypothetical situation where the platform on each phone sold was just a little bit different. Different enough where Google Maps would run normally on one phone but run terribly slow on another. Let’s say, for sake of example, that Android implemented an API that put the phone to sleep for a fraction of a second to conserve battery life when nothing was moving on the screen. The API prototype for such a function might look like SystemClock.sleep(millis) where the parameter “millis” is the number of milliseconds to put the device to sleep for.

If one phone manufacturer implemented SystemClock.sleep() incorrectly, and interpreted the parameter as Seconds instead of Milliseconds, the phone would be put to sleep a thousand times longer than intended! This manufacturer’s phone would have a terrible time running Google Maps. If apps don’t run well across devices due to incompatibilities, consumers would leave the ecosystem, followed by developers. The end of the virtuous cycle.

This is for the first time that Google has come out in the open against a member of OHA using an alleged forked version of Android. We hope Google is clear in what it is doing.

You can read the full blog post here.

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