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Alibaba Made a Mistake with Aliyun OS, No Other Explanation

China’s favorite e-commerce giant Alibaba is exchanging blows with Google that many say may have a critical effect on the future of Android in China. Not so.

Alibaba’s mobile operating system (Aliyun OS), presumably a Linux-based platform, was set to be released on a new smartphone by Taiwanese manufacturer Acer last week, but after receiving pressure from Google, Acer backed out of the deal at the last minute.

Last week, Google’s Andy Rubin took a controversial step, criticizing Aliyun’s operating system for being an “incomplete” version of Android and pointing out that it uses many of the same tools as Android and includes pirated Google apps. Developments today prove that Alibaba completely agrees and Jack Ma: the company is choosing to spinoff Aliyun OS with a $200 million investment for the purpose of improving its “talent-base.”

Google isn’t “evil”, which is presumably the reason they blocked the deal right? But I would argue that this is not a blow to China’s nascent Android-variant industry. On the contrary, this is an attempt to keep the platform flexible.

As Xiaomi’s MIUI attests to, companies in China can create a readily-upgradeable variant of Android while still staying within a compatible framework that is under the acceptable bounds of Android’s OHA (Open Handset Alliance). There are already versions of MIUI developed for Google Nexus, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, and LG phones. Granted, it is hard to imagine MIUI catching on outside of China and Xiaomi’s own handsets, but at least it is compatible with the Android framework.

What Alibaba and most recently Baidu (though Android-compliant with Baidu Cloud) are attempting to do is grab market share and create further confusion in the industry under the guise of further competition. While this is inevitable in any new industry ready for greed, Alibaba just happens to be doing it by claiming Android as its own.

Google does not need a major Internet company undermining its already difficult business in China. Alibaba sees that it will not get away with this in the long run, so the company is revamping the system and spinning it off in the hopes of resuscitating the platform.

Either they will recreate the OS from the ground up, or they will run into more trouble with Google down the road, guaranteed. It can’t get more straightforward than Andy Rubin’s last message:

“We agree that the Aliyun OS is not part of the Android ecosystem and you’re under no requirement to be compatible.

However, the fact is, Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework, and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps). So there’s really no disputing that Aliyun is based on the Android platform and takes advantage of all the hard work that’s gone into that platform by the OHA.

So if you want to benefit from the Android ecosystem, then make the choice to be compatible. It’s easy, free, and we’ll even help you out. But if you don’t want to be compatible, then don’t expect help from OHA members that are all working to support and build a unified Android ecosystem.”

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