Did Google Kill Acer’s New Smartphone? (UPDATE: Yep!)

Taiwanese PC maker Acer abruptly cancelled an event launching its new Acer A800 smartphone amid allegations that Google had threatened to yank the company’s Android OS license if it went ahead with sales of its new phone, which uses a rival operating system.

Acer gave no reason for cancelling the launch, but a statement from Chinese online commerce giant Alibaba, whose subsidiary developed the phone’s Aliyun OS, blamed threats by Google for the aborted launch:

A Sept. 13  news conference announcing the China launch of a high-end Acer smartphone running a cloud operating system made by Alibaba Group was abruptly canceled after Google, owner of the Android OS, threatened to cancel Acer’s license to use Android for its other phones if the launch went ahead.

Acer’s new smartphone would be the first handset from a non-Chinese maker to use Ailyun OS.  Acer is the world’s fourth-largest PC manufacturer and first began producing phones for the Chinese market last year, but those models all ran on Google’s Android OS.

ComputerWorld tried to get to the bottom of the controversy, but found both Google and Acer mum on the incident, and even Alibaba was unwilling to comment further.

The Acer A800 is aimed at the Chinese market, to be sold through Alibaba’s e-retail site Taobao Mall.  Though able to run Android apps, the smartphone is primarily designed to run web-based “cloud apps” hosted on company servers.

UPDATE: Marketing Land got a statement from Google that confirms it told Acer to nix the A800 launch or get kicked out of the Open Handset Alliance

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.

Since Android is open source, Google divides the world of Android systems into two camps, “compatible” Androids, which work with Google’s Android ecosystem, and “not compatible” versions that compete with it (like Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Acer’s A800).  A device maker that wants to work with Google on compatible Androids is not allowed to ship Android-based devices that compete with Google’s ecosystem (though it could ship devices based on competing operating systems like Windows Phone).

While it might sound like an arcane dispute, TheNextWeb suggests that this move by Google against Alibaba, one of the most powerful online companies in China, could be the first shot in an Internet trade war.

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