But, can Alibaba win the day?
Alibaba can make the case that the CDD and CTS are fundamentally flawed, that they do not define Android compatibility in the real world. The situation is reminiscent to the case of Lance Armstrong. Armstrong passed every drug test, and yet, debates rage between quasi-government agencies and the world of cycling about his status. Some (including the government) believe the tests were faulty, and that Armstrong doped. Some (including the governing body for cycling) believe that there’s insufficient evidence.
With Aliyun, we have the opposite situation. It fails the test… and yet, it can run Android apps. It can run Android services. It can walk, talk, and do just about everything Android can do. But, it’s not flawless, and it dares (literally) to be different.
Alibaba could make the case that Aliyun is a testament to the challenges presented by the CDD and CTS. They can argue devices that are stamped as Android, and consumers use as Android, fail both routinely.
Google, on the other hand, is sticking to the OHA’s definition. All of Google’s collaborated devices, Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 are Android-certified, because they pass CTS and are the gold standard for CDD complaince. This was actually a big deal for Google, as CDMA security protocols drew this into question for awhile on the Nexus S 4G. In the end, Google pushed hard and convinced Sprint and Samsung to modify their protocols… just so rigid Android standards could be maintained.
Could Google sue Alibaba for this? Possibly, on behalf of OHA. But, it would be a hard case. Google has watched so many devices tout Android compatibility, yet clearly (and in their own view) fail CTS and CDD. The CTS offers an option to optionally send test results to Google. So, they know tons of Android-marketed devices flop miserably, and dramatically.
Also, with no governing body set up to actually declare a device to be an Android, Google may not even have the standing to do more than grandstand here.
Can Google win the day?
Yes, Google can win the day. But, Google needs to acknowledge the reality of the situation: A lot of Android devices fail the same standards that Alibaba is breaching. The difference lies in the degree to which a breach has occurred.
The best PR campaign, in our opinion, would be for Google to push everyone to be more compatible with Android. Google needs to tout, and to a large part is touting already, the importance of Android compatibility.
In the Linux world, we’ve seen what happens when compatibility does not occur. It took eons to be able to double click on an installer, with a mouse, and install a Linux application in the same manner you’d double click on a setup.exe, install.msi, or macapp.pkg. And, today, we still have to tell users in Linux to chose between an rpm, or a deb package.
Linux users actually tout that it’s a great thing that Google Chrome has four different downloadable choices for Linux (32-bit deb, 32-bit rpm, 64-bit deb, and 64-bit rpm). And that’s before the installers for apps like VMWare Player that have to be run from the command line, just to get the installer process started.
Why is Linux so screwed up? Lack of unity on how to accomplish tasks. Different distributions disagree on how to draw stuff to the screen. They disagree on how to unpack files, how to set up an installer, how to update applications. If you see two versions of Linux agree on something, it’s usually dictated by the kernel.
And, Google/Android have made magnificent strides to even make that the same, across Linux and Android. With Android 4.0.3, a minor point release, Google unified its frankenstein Linux kernel with the mainline Linux kernel. Today’s Android is actually, truly, a form of Linux. And, it’s the form of Linux that other distributions of Linux are now looking to emulate. Now that kernel unification has taken place, Android truly is the most widely used form of Linux. So, yes, this stuff matters.
And, Google can push back against Alibaba, by reminding folks that major breaks from Android compatibility are far, far more important than the minor deviations that handset manufacturers make. The hard part is conveying how these very technical points, translate into things that can kill a platform’s market potential. Ask anyone who tried to use Linux as a Windows replacement in the 1990s about that. Next Page…