Google reportedly forces Acer to cancel smartphone launch with Alibaba in China

by: Chris SmithSeptember 13, 2012

Google’s “Don’t be evil” is weaker and weaker every time the search giant does something against its own motto. How many times did we see Google somehow managing to infringe on the customer’s privacy? How many times did we see Google investigated in various regions of the world including the U.S. and Europe for alleged actions that deserve being looked into? How many times did we see the company forced to pay a fine or settle a legal matter?

Google ads 

More than once, which is too many times already. Sure, Google provides a lot of free services in addition to Search, which is why we tend to overlook its reported or confirmed infractions. But the ultimate goal of providing such services, whether it’s Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Chrome or Android, is to make money, not to receive endless praises.

Google, like any other corporation, is interested in turning in a profit quarter after quarter in order to please investors and not only. And its main revenue stream is based on online ads. That means Google simply has to compete on multiple fronts, to keep the ad revenue coming in no matter how tough the economy is at any given moment. That means Google has to change search algorithms, it has to modify privacy policies across services but it also has to devise new products such as Android and Google+ to fight of competitors such as Apple, Microsoft and Amazon on the mobile front and Facebook, Twitter and others in the social networking universe, respectively, that could affect ad revenue on the long run through competing products.

The Amazon threat

This explains why Amazon with its Kindle Fire tablets is such a threat for Google, as the electronics giant managed to deliver a striking blow to Android tablet makers in 2011 and make everyone realize that Google’s main threat comes from within. Amazon stripped all Google services from the Android-based Kindle Fire OS and therefore made sure Google’s ads would not show on default Kindle Fire.

What would happen if more OEMs decided they’re strong enough to pull of an Amazon-like move – creating their own Android-based universe but without welcoming Google to the party?

How did Google feel about the Kindle Fire? Formally, Andy Rubin said a while ago that he appreciates the Kindle Fire, a device running Android and selling like hot cakes. But informally, Google would probably have a very different opinion. Enter the Nexus 7, a tablet not supposed to put a dent into iPad sales, but rather put an end to Amazon’s dominance in the Android tablet universe.


Google and China are not exactly close friends, and we all know that. In fact, it’s more difficult for Google to make the most of the Chinese web, because of the history and difficulties it faced in the region thanks to the rigid rules of the local Government. That means Google is not making as much cash off of Chinese customers, including Android users, as it could. So while it does hold a large piece of the mobile OS pie in the region, it’s definitely where it could be from the financial point of view.

Forcing Acer out

The long intro above is needed in order to look to a recent chain of events that portray Google as the “be evil” bad guy. Reuters reported earlier today that Google put pressure on Acer to cancel a smartphone launch in China, where the handset and smartphone maker was supposed to announce a new device with Alibaba Group, “China’s biggest e-commerce firm:”

Acer and Alibaba’s cloud computing unit had planned to launch the Acer CloudMobile A800 smartphone, using Alibaba’s mobile operating system, Aliyun, [a Linux-based mobile operating system] in Shanghai on Thursday afternoon.

Apparently Google doesn’t want any competition in the region from such a device, that would not run Android, which is definitely curious:

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

And this isn’t just a rumor whispered around the dark alleys of the Interwebs. This is Reuters reporting on a story, and telling the world why journalists showed up for the Chinese event only to find out that it was canceled.

Is this what we want in the mobile space, or any other niche for that matter? Should any company have as much leverage on its “partners?” Would Google pull off such a stunt with companies like Samsung, HTC or LG, in case they wanted to launch devices with different operating systems in China? Wait a second, Samsung has bada and Windows Phone handsets in its lineup, and HTC and LG are also Microsoft’s partners. It definitely can’t force Amazon not to screw up with Android anymore, can it?

Sure, China is a big attraction to every player in the mobile business as it offers potential for plenty of growth in the coming years. But Android is already the dominant mobile OS in the region, when looking at market share, so how much harm could Aliyun really do? Is this how thins should happen when it comes to open source products?

Coincidentally, a few days we published an article titled: “China’s Alibaba wants to take on Android, should Google be worried?” That was more of a rhetorical question since the only companies Google should be worried about right now are Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook for different reasons that boil down to one thing, losing ad-based revenue. But it looks like Google is worried about Alibaba too. At least according to Reuters.

Google and Acer did not comment on the matter, but it would make sense to see them respond to such accusations. In fact, we’d definitely love to hear more on this story.

What do you think about all of the above?

  • Kernschatten

    “What do you think about all of the above?”

    I think proofreading is lacking.
    Missing words, spelling mistakes, errors in grammar…

    And, I’ll wait for more info before breaking out the torches and pitchforks.

    • Mario Felaco

      I don’t usually comment, but I felt the need to say just that. Chris, please improve your writing or have someone check it before posting.

  • kEiThZ

    “Don’t be evil” should not equal “Be a pushover.”

    I don’t see anything evil in Google’s, move. I hope they go further and warn all their partners that cooperation with any party trying to fork Android will mean the end of Google’s partnership. No more licensing all the proprietary Google apps.

    Google has no obligation to support competitors, especially when they try and undermine the very OS they wish to use. The fact that Google doesn’t launch frivolous lawsuits is enough. If an OEM wants to take the risk of forking Android, they should be forced to choose: Google or their fork partner.

  • Jose Hernandez

    I don’t think is wrong for Google to want to protect Android. But I also want to keep in mind that China is not a country without faults. This post reads like an all out attack on Google to be honest.

  • Garry DeWitt

    I think the article is a bit aggressive, but I also think google going to that extreme is also a bit aggressive. Hopefully more info will come out explaining this.

  • undecillion

    Not enough information to draw conclusions. We only heard one side of the story. The point this article is trying to make is not very clear though…

  • anakin

    Guys, don’t believe everything you read. There is enough to be suspicious here:
    -the ONLY source is Alibaba, the company that made the rival OS.
    -there are thousands of devices worldwide already using android regardless of the version, so why would Google who allowed this to happen suddenly threaten a company now?
    -Aliyun OS runs Android apps. This is clearly wrong and should be stopped. I think we could all agree on that. It would be like a new OS that runs iOS apps.

    So, please don’t jump to conclusion and wait to read more info.

    • “-Aliyun OS runs Android apps. This is clearly wrong and should be stopped.”

      I don’t understand this, could you tell me more about it? When RIM announced the Playbook would be able to run Android apps nobody said it was wrong… I guess… What’s the reasoning? =)

      • anakin

        wow I did a little digging to confirm this and you’re right! I honestly did not know there were already one OS running android apps. I wonder why google allowed this?

        I mean i always assumed it was wrong since logically android apps were made to be run on an android device. What would happen do you think if windows application were able to be run natively (no emulators) on macs? Or vice-versa? what about iOS apps on android? Now i’m confused about that. :-) I just thought it would be like stealing proprietary code to make android apps run on the playbook. Why bother at all? just do like amazon if you need to change the user interface.

        Does anyone know anything about this? Why Google allowed Playbook to do that?

        • Well, I don’t know… I’d always figured that, first, a system doesn’t own the apps run on it, and secondly, that supporting different kinds of applications meant tradeoffs that simply wouldn’t pay off. Why doesn’t Linux make it so that running Windows apps natively can be done? Because this means changing too much stuff… But then again there’s WINE, and it’s still a hell of a work to make _some_ apps work! =O

          Every app system has its cons and pros, and maybe Google looked at RIM and thought “hmm… So they want to run android apps? Ok. They’ll waste development time trying to make it work and since the systems are very different it won’t completely work” – and that’s exactly what happened. The feature was removed from the system (AFAIK) because some apps didn’t work, some functionality wasn’t present, etc etc etc.

          • SE

            As far as I know Android apps are Java base, which for the longest time the BlackBerry OS is a java base program. There is no wrong for Google to let Playbook and BlackBerry 10 to run Android apps. The reason? Many of the Android apps shows ads within it. It actually allows Google ads to reach more people. As note the in the article, Google made Android to make money. If there is a net benefit (say market penetration, ie attractive to developers for writing once and get access to multiple platforms, or may be just making more money from ads) of allowing another platform to run Android app, Google would do it. It’s as simple as that.

          • Peterson Silva

            Yeah, it makes sense – but in your scenario an “embrace and destroy” strategy could have been deployed by RIM, had they been successful. I mean, let the apps come, let’s make our system more appealing, and once Berries are on top again let’s ditch Android and then developers would feel more compelled to write for QNX instead. Google would have been left on the dust.

            That is, of course, wishful thinking… RIM couldn’t have pulled that off =) Another competitor might, though, and that’s a good reason for Google to not allow other systems to run Android apps.

        • Kernschatten

          RIM and Google have an agreement.

  • Good writing Chris. Google is already messed up with China and Aliyun surely is a threat to Android in that region. But bullying over Acer over this issue is not a character of Google, It is like the first time when Cyanogen mod went public and google threatening to sue the team and later retracting it due to the tech community pressure. Might be now, we should get the complete story and decide to support Acer or not.

  • dagrump

    Aliyun is an Android open source platform compile, without any Android stuff. So they would like Google to continue helping Acer build the hardware platform they wish to compete on.
    I swear some place this Alibaba bunch claimed it took 1600 engineers 3 years to create this software… That can run Android apps???