Google Accused of Blocking Alibaba-Powered Handset

Alibaba has blamed Google for blocking the launch of a smartphone powered by the Chinese firm’s operating system.

A worker uses a computer at the reception of office in this file photo. (Photo credit: AP)

Journalists had been invited to an event to see a new handset from Taiwan’s Acer running on Alibaba’s Aliyun software.

However, on arrival the writers were told the launch had been cancelled.

Alibaba later issued a statement accusing Google – which makes the rival Android system – of threatening Acer it would cancel its own links to the firm.

“Our partner received notification from Google that if the new product with Aliyun went ahead, Google would terminate Android product cooperation and related technical authorisation with Acer,” Alibaba’s Cloud Computing unit said in a statement.

When questioned, Google referred the BBC to Acer.

A spokeswoman from Acer was unable to verify the cause for the cancellation but provided a statement.

“Regarding the abrupt cancellation of yesterday’s press conference with Alibaba in China, Acer expresses deep regret and sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused to our media friends,” it said.

“Acer will continue working with its strategic partners in China to create improved product and service offerings, and looks forward to sharing the results of our win-win developments in the near future.”

‘China’s Android’

Google’s alleged threat would have carried weight.

Acer’s UK website lists 14 smartphones and three tablets using Google’s Android system.

The manufacturer also makes one handset that runs on Windows Phone 7 and has said that it has plans to launch a Windows Phone 8 device in 2013.

Like Android, the Aliyun system is based on the Linux kernel.

It was launched in July last year as part of a strategy to ensure users would continue to shop via the firm’s e-commerce system in light of the fact many users were spending more time on their mobile devices than PCs.

Within a year Alibaba said that more than one million handsets featuring the system had been sold, and earlier this week the firm’s chief strategy officer Zeng Ming was quoted as saying “we want to become China’s Android” by the Soho IT news site.

One technology analyst said he did not find the news surprising.

“I have been waiting for Google to do something like this,” Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group, told the BBC.

“Effectively Acer was going to use a phone developed for Android and then drop another system on to it.

“Although for the most part Google has been standoffish and open source about the use of Android, it has taken steps within the last year to take back more control of the platform.

“It was only a matter of time before it took action to prevent the launch of handsets that offered rival capabilities.”

This article originally appeared on BBC News and was republished with permission.