| 17°C Dublin

Google mobile chief attacks Chinese version of Android

THE head of Google’s mobile division has attacked a Chinese rival, accusing it of pirating apps and violating rules designed to discourage incompatible versions of Android.

The intervention by Andy Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile and digital content, follows a bizarre incident last week when Acer, the Taiwanese manufacturer, invited journalists to a news conference to demonstrate a new smartphone for the booming Chinese market, only to tell them the event been blocked by Google.

The handset was due to be the first to run Aliyun, a mobile operating system developed by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant.

It emerged that Acer pulled out when Google threatened to revoke its membership of the Open Handset Alliance, the group of Android manufacturers that guides development of the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

Although Android is free and open source, allowing anyone to copy and adapt it, a condition of membership of the OHA is that handsets based on elements of the software must be cross-compatible and able to run the same apps. If Acer was kicked out, its future products could not carry the Android logo and would not have access to the Google Play app store.

“While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem,” Google said.

In a blog post addressed to John Spelich, an Alibaba executive who complained publicly about Google’s action, Mr Rubin said Aliyun would have created an incompatible operating system based on Android.

“The fact is, Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools,” he said.

Industry observers also saw the blog post as a defence against claims that Google acted to crush potential competition.

“And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps)," Mr Rubin continued.

"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.”

Incompatible versions of Android are known as “forks”; Amazon’s Kindle Fire operating system is the best-known example.

Mr Spelich had denied that Aliyun was fork and insisted it was built from the ground up on Linux, the open source operating system that also serves as the foundation of Android.

“So if you want to benefit from the Android ecosystem, then make the choice to be compatible,” Mr Rubin told him.

“Its 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.”

The row has highlighted the high stakes in the Chinese smartphone market, which research firm IDC expects to overtake the American market this year. Alibaba had expressed ambitions to become “the Android of China”, but Google’s move against its collaboration with Acer makes that unlikely, given almost all the big name smartphone manufacturers are members of the OHA.

By Christopher Williams Telegraph.co.uk