A Quiet War
This past week has been an active battleground between Google’s Andy Rubin, SVP & Founder of Android at Google, and Alibaba. Alibaba, an e-commerce giant in China, has created their own operating system, Aliyun OS. They claim it designed to be the “Android (distribution) for China“.
Alibaba is in a unique position. They’ve created what is, in essence, the Kindle Fire OS… but in China. Like Kindle Fire, Alibaba started with Android, and began making changes. Some to appease China’s government, some to be more palatable to China’s citizens, and some to help make the platform profitable for Alibaba. The result? An Alien-Android hybrid. Something that started with Android, but was infused with the intents, monitoring, and resources of Alibaba… and the Chinese government.
Google is on tough terms with China. It abandoned the country largely after realizing the relationship with the government of China was untenable. China demanded too much access to user data, and Google also had moral qualms about China’s insistence on lying to its own people, about things ranging from pesky crimes against humanity, to even the levels of pollution that its citizens are being subjected to.
While the United States government distances itself from these topics, deferring to good old fashioned capitalism, Alibaba and the Chinese government are intertwined. China wants a powerful mobile operating system it can call its own. It has no problem copying someone else’s work, and then renaming it to their own, from the get-go.
The issue here, is that unlike Barnes & Noble-and-Amazon, Alibaba is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Alibaba is asserting that they are a unique Operating System, and at the same time, Android. Amazon doesn’t even mention Android in its Kindle Fire documentation, you practically have to get an off-the-record answer to that question.
While Aliyun has been around for awhile, this matter broke out of its quiet nature recently, when Acer planned to announce an Aliyun device. As a member of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), Google informed Acer that would be a breach of its member obligations to the Android community, for supporting an “incompatible (fork/variant) of Android“. Acer aborted its announcement, and by the looks of it, its Acer Aliyun OS smartphone may be finished, but won’t ship to consumers anywhere.
Alibaba and Google have been in a very loud PR war of words ever since. What we’re going to do, is pop open the hood of Android, and pin down how much ado this is about.
Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one. Next Page…