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. All members of the Open Handset Alliance have committed to building one Android platform and to not ship non-compatible Android devices.
This does not however, keep OHA members from participating in competing ecosystems.
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.
Based on our analysis of the apps available at http://apps.aliyun.com, the platform tries to, but does not succeed in being compatible.
It’s easy to be Android compatible, the OHA supplies all the tools and details on how to do it. Check out this blog post that explains how we think about compatibility and how it relates to the ecosystem we worked hard to build
Acer wanted to use Alibaba’s fork of Android on a Chinese phone (but use Android on the same hardware outside of China). Just one day before the announcement, however, Google called to tell Acer that it would be kicked out of the OHA had it decided to use a forked version of Android.
Aliyun OS revolves around the idea of bringing cloud functionality to the mobile platform. According to the company, Aliyun will feature cloud-based e-mail, Web search, weather updates, and GPS navigation tools. In addition, the operating system will synchronize and store call data, text messages, and photos in the cloud for access across other devices, including PCs. Alibaba says it will offer customers 100GB of storage at launch. The operating system would allow users to access applications from the Web, rather than download apps to their devices.
It doesn’t use Dalvik, but the OS itself is a binary-compatible Android clone. An App Store was launched with the Aliyun OS that contains downloadable Android APK files.
What’s interesting is that Acer is allowed to use competing operating systems, so long as it is not a fork of Android (Windows Phone 7/8, for instance). Android is a fork, though, or based off Linux, which is also the base of Bada, Samsung’s own operating system. You can be very sure Samsung is taking some bits of the knowledge it gets from Android and bringing it to Bada.
It would not surprise me if Samsung and Google clashed on these same issues in the coming years.
As for Acer, it bailed on Aliyun. The promise of quicker updates to Android —as well as access to the Google Play store and all of Google’s apps— was probably too much of a risk for an experimental operating system. Perhaps a small Acer spinoff will test Aliyun in the not-so-distant future.