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Google accuses Alibaba of using non-compatible version of Android for its Aliyun OS

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is the latest to enter the mobile competition fray. Last week, it was revealed that Google had prevented the launch of an Acer smartphone running on Alibaba’s Aliyun operating system on the basis that the platform is actually a "non-compatible [version] of Android."

In a blog post, the search giant said that, “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.”

Unsurprisingly, Alibaba fought back. In an email to CNET, the company’s vice president John Spelich insisted that Google’s claims were false.

“They have no idea and are just speculating. Aliyun is different,” said Spelich. Aliyun is “"not a fork. Ours is built on open-source Linux,” he said, adding that the OS has its own applications, can run some, though not all, Android apps, and was designed to run its own cloud services.

Taking his rebuttal one step further, Spelich also accused Android of being a closed and restrictive ecosystem, despite Google’s claims to the contrary.

“[We] are an ecosystem that includes other Internet companies, whereas Android does not because it provides apps through downloads. It's the crux of the whole cloud vs. app debate. Cloud is open, apps system is closed because it is controlled by the operator of the apps marketplace. So you see: Two competing ecosystems, one that's open through the cloud, the other is closed and restricts users to only the apps that they want you to see,” Spelich wrote.

But in a subsequent clarification, Google’s vice president of mobile and digital content Andy Rubin insisted that there is “no disputing” that Aliyun is an Android-based platform.

“We agree that the Aliyun OS is not part of the Android ecosystem and you're under no requirement to be compatible,” Rubin wrote in a post addressed to Spelich.

“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,” he continued.

Though many will be pleased with Google’s efforts to clamp down on fragmentation in the Android sphere, it’s unlikely that the company will generate much goodwill through what can easily be framed as bully tactics.