Google leans on Acer to not use new OS, could Windows Phone OEMs be next? [Updated]

Google is getting bold, telling OEMs 'no' on other OSs

Update: Google's Andy Rubin finally responds. See after the break...

A bit of a controversy is slowly erupting over Acer’s widely publicized plan to use the Aliyun OS in a new line of low-cost smartphones, mostly destined for the Chinese market. Aliyun OS is a Linux-based system developed by the Chinese company Alibaba Group and offered a way for OEMs like Acer to diversify.

Acer has now abruptly canceled plans after Google “expressed concerns” over the announcement.  Though Acer still wants to use the Aliyun OS, the move by Google is being interpreted as a hostile action to block competition. Reportedly Google threatened to cancel Acer’s license to make Android devices, which many consider playing hardball.

The question is, how far is Google willing to go to maintain dominance?

Cnet managed to get a quote from Alibaba about Asus on the matter directly, sparring no details:

"Our partner was notified by Google that if the product runs Aliyun OS, Google will terminate its Android-related cooperation and other technology licensing with our partner"

In a speculative piece over at Benzinga, they suggest that Samsung may be Google’s next target.  Specifically that Google may pressure Samsung to back-off with Windows Phone 8 devices and only focus on Android.

Overly Attached Android

Would that be possible? Plausible?

Though we find Google’s apparent actions against Acer deplorable, it’s another thing to try and pressure the world’s top smartphone manufacture to give up on Microsoft’s OS.  And let's be clear, Microsoft pressures its OEM partners too with patent lawsuits for using Android. In turn, it is widely reported that Microsoft gives licensing discounts for preference of its OS over Android.

Samsung would lose a lot by 100% giving up its relationship with Microsoft for smartphones, including patent protections offered by previously negotiated deals. Not to mention, the whole ATIV line of phones, computers and slates could be jeopardized?

But Google’s actions are brazen to say the least and it could mean that they pressure Samsung in other ways. For instance, much like what has already happened in the past with Android devices getting first ‘dibs’ on new hardware and designs. That type of dominance could continue if Samsung wants to keep their bread-and-butter Google happy.

LG is currently on Windows Phone hiatus but they’re also ripe for pressure from Google—in fact, for all we know that is why they have no Windows Phone 8 devices this year. Other smaller firms like Huawei may also feel the long arm of Google as well.

Google has been accused of slighting partners in the past, like Skyhook over their Wi-Fi based location services. Google reportedly forced OEMs to use their system over Skyhook's, resulting in a lawsuit. The threat included denying "...timely and equal access to evolving versions of the Android operating system and other Google mobile applications."

Google Empire

"The more you tighten your grip, Google, the more OEMs will slip through your fingers."

What if Windows Phone 8 is a hit?

Here’s the real kicker, the more Google tightens its grip over OEMs the more they will look for alternatives. And those lawsuits are not helping either.

Samsung already has Tizen waiting but it won’t be ready until sometime in 2013 and the company has already been reported as pushing away ‘overly attached’ Google-friend. Will Google get Samsung to abandoned Tizen?

And Acer evidently has Aliyun OS (but not really as evidenced today).

But if Windows Phone 8 catches on, these OEMs can offload on Android for Microsoft while still making profit for their shareholders.

With the iPhone 5 coming out soon and now Nokia considered to be a contender, Google has a lot to worry about in 2013.

Until then, smaller firms like Acer have to take it from Google, as they have no alternative.

Update from Google's Andy Rubin:

"We were surprised to read Alibaba Group's chief strategy officer Zeng Ming's quote "We want to be the Android of China" when in fact the Aliyun OS incorporates the Android runtime and was apparently derived from Android. Based on our analysis of the apps available at, the platform tries to, but does not succeed in being compatible.It's easy to be Android compatible, the OHA supplies all the tools and details on how to do it.  "

In essence what Rubin is saying here is if you are part of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) like Acer, you cannot do both: make Android devices and "forked" Android-ish devices. "Forked" he means a branch of the OS based off either the kernel or similar Linux properties, for example what has done with the Kindle Fire series--that's Android, but it does not contain any Google services. gets away with it because they're not in the OHA, so they don't need to comply with the rules. Having said that, they could never do a Kindle Fire and a straight up Android phone. 

Acer is part of the OHA and therefore must comply with the rules, meaning they can't go "off reservation" as our buddy Phil Nickinson explained from Android Central. The problem here is that China has no official Google Play store and that ecosystem is hurting badly over there. One response is create an alternative market, which is exactly what Alibaba did with their Aliyun OS. In theory, it's fine for them to do that but Acer cannot be their partner while still making OHA-compliant Android phones. 

It's literally a "Play by our rules" type situation, which once again seems fine. The problem is Android is technically open-source, so it seems odd for such a free rolling operating system dictating to OEMs what they can and can't do. Let us be clear: Google is threatening Acer here by kicking them out of OHA and Google seems to have good cause to do so (legally and from a business perspective). The problem is it calls into question the nature of "open source", especially when things can be enforced with heavy penalties for disobeying the system that Google controls.

Source: Benzinga, NASDAQ, Engadget'Vader-Google' image credit: Synecore Tech

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • OEM's need to understand its not just the phone its the family that sells the products.
  • I like how, aside from the pro-Windows Phone blogs, the tech media has been nearly silent on this.  If Microsoft threatened its OEMs (PC or mobile) this way, there would have been a you-know-what-storm of hate.
  • I've seen at least 3 tech sites post about this the past day before it showed up here.
  • That's precisely what's starting up right now.  Alibaba apparently has a partnership with Microsoft so people are starting to say that it's Microsoft spreading FUD via proxy. 
  • Ms is winning even if it's not on windows phone as we know Google Android has to pay ms. But anyways Google is blackmailing Acer. Is there a law against this action? It's like saying to a gas station only use are oil if you start selling the competitors oil we will cut you off from our supply.
  • We've seen similar things like this occur.  Back in the late 90s, Apple clone manufacturer, Power Computing, was going to build a brand new factory near my hometown. Heck, they actually left and came back because my hometown was so conservative that they didn't want a company that offered same sex families benefits.  I digress.  My school district (for which I worked as a network and PC technician) was going to replace all of the Apple's for upgraded and much cheaper Power Computing clones.  Then it happened.  Apple wouldn't renew licensing agreement for its OS which would have forced the clone manufacturer to operate the old version of Apple's OS while only Apple could offer the newer versions.  It went out of business almost over night.  It is a little more complicated than that, but that is what we experienced as a consumer.  Fortunately, we (IT) managed to convince the school district to turn to Dell to replace the aging Apple computers.  So, the point is that, yeah, strong arming either subtlely or otherwise isn't so uncommon.  It's just Microsoft that can't do it without some kind of notoriety LOL.  That Apple and Google have grown so much but don't seem to be held to similar standards is what irks me about both of them. /shrug  I'm biased.  Microsoft and their products are what afford me my living - I absolutely love what they stand for (as a capitalist) and their tech despite some of their shortcomings.
  • so the open source, everything should be free and shared folks @ Android, are saying what exactly?
  • That's the rub. As our friend Rene at iMore says, "Google are a bunch of ****s".  :)
  • That's an understatement. I can't help but think they are trying to strongarm the carriers too, let's look at Sprint for example. No ecosystem diversity at all. It's really scary.
  • I didn't know they could do that to carriers, but look at these links:
    - Google paying carriers to love them
    -  Google’s Advertising Rev-Share Deals With Carriers
  • Android is only successful so long as Google has OEMs. They strong arm them too much, they will only hurt themselves. Especially with more options appearing out there. Shows that OSs like wp8 is getting to them and they are showing fear.
  • Ludicrous! Google doesn't have a leg to stand on... they offer the Android OS to OEMs free as open source, so they can't make any demands on those partners. What are they going to do? Say, "Oh, no, sorry, you aren't allowed to use our free open source solution?" They'd literally kill their platform doing so... OEMs are already nervous about Samsung's legal issues, and why pay Microsoft for Google to be a bully to them? No chance. They'll dump Google and go back to Microsoft (they're paying them anyway, right) in a heartbeat.
  • They offer it free but they could deny them special previews so that the preferred oems have advance knowledge.
  • the OS is open source, but their proprietary apps (android market being the key) is what they can with hold from them if they don't play ball.
    if their terms are unfavorable for small OEM's like acer (as least in the smartphone world) then they might choose to use the windows phone platform since they have to give msft some royalties for using android anyways.
  • Shouldnt there be legal ramifications from this if true? You know the whole world would be after Microsoft if they did anything remotely similar.
  • haha, go for it Google.  OEMs are already fed up having to pay royalty fees to microsoft because of your THEFT.....give them a reason to simply go with Windows Phone.
  • Finally you say something sensible
  • The important thing to note though, is that Aliyun can run Android apps.
  • Interesting, I can't help but think there is something legally wrong with that. Not sure what though.
  • removed duplicate post.
  • I've got to believe there is more to this story.....
  • I was thinking that too, but read the Cnet piece we link to. Seems legit.
  • Well, after reading part of Andy Rubins post about this, things become much clearer. Google's worry in this is the fact that the new Aliyun OS uses parts of Android, but (and I think a big BUT) it will not run Android apps.
    Everyone knows that the biggest issue Android has is fragmentation. Google knows it and is trying to at least control it over the hundreds of different devices oiut there. This is a good step for Android in controlling a situation that would have huge fagmentation issues.
    If it were strong-arming we would have seen it before this with Samsung, HTC and others. It makes no sense that Google would take this route now with Acer when they have never done it in the past,
  • The more to this story might well be the ongoing battle between the Chinese government and Google.  China recently banned the sale of the Nexus 7 tablet.
  • I'm blown away by this news. "Do no evil" my ass!
  • I never agreed with Steve Jobs on much, but him literally calling BS on "do no evil" was probably the best thing he had ever done.
  • Jobs probably justified his own evil by thinking everybody else does it. Haha
  • True. But to be fair, to this day he remains the only single figure in the tech industry who was willing to publicly call out Google for who they are. I don't see Ballmer, Cook, Zuckerberg, Bezos or anyone else saying a word. Personally, it disturbs me how Google is teaching consumers that the future of technology is to trade your privacy for "free" web-based services. One of these days there's going to be a mass data breach and with all the aggregated info Google has, I just hope they don't get a free pass like they have been on all the questionably copyrighted code in Android and malware-ridden Google Play marketplace.
  • Do you seriously believe that Microsoft hasn't saved every bit of data you've used on their products?  Likewise Amazon, facebook and Apple.  When the issue of location based data came up Google explained the what and why, Microsoft hemmed and hawed, Apple said yes we save it and arrogantly refused to answer and questions.  Google is neither more or less evil than the others, but they are usually more forthcoming.
  • BS on Google being more forthcoming. Microsoft's privacy statements and opt-out options are superior. You're spreading FUD. Difference is, you chose what data is shared with Microsoft and know what they collect. It's written in plain English. Also, their ads in email are not based off email contents.
  • I've read that policy, it refers to the ads you see, not to the data they collect.  And Google answers questions about privacy all the time.
  • Here's their policy on data collected. Clear. As. Day. Under 'My personal data dashboard' you chose what is shared and collected with MS. How is any of that opaque, not clear or deceptive? It's gorgeously transparent to me.
  • Very clear, and not much different than Google.
  • MSFT aren't angels, but compared to Google...i can't find another word. The spokesman from google sounds like a child pointing fingers, and never get there message clear. If Google was such forthcoming fellows, why are even this well known discussion happening all over again? Google plays on ignorance which is plenty to go.
  • They're usually more forthcoming because they have more issues to deal with. The problem here is in fundamentals,
    Microsoft is mainly aimed at software and collects information and/or usage data that helps it model the software better while Google is centered on YOU - everything Google does is to make it more "personal" for YOU. While that has its benefits, it also means that Google has literally too much data about what you do in your day to day life and that's why they get in so much trouble. 
    They are both corporations and both shouldn't be completely trusted but I'll take my chances with the one that knows less about me. Thank you.
  • I had to visit an ATT store today (long story).  It's shocking to see the quantity of Android devices in that store.  I looked quickly, but found only one Windows Phone (Lumina 900) and the Minimal number of Apple products.  It's just crazy how many different Adroid phones there are.  I'm sur emany people just go into the store without a clue.  Not sure where I'm going with this, but I think it's just odds.  Odds are that a clueless buyer will get an Android.  Many people blindly buy Apple, so that stays strong.  Windows Phone is the big loser here.  Very few blind followers and horrendous odds for the uninformed shopper. 
  • It illustrates exactly why only a couple (Samsung and HTC mostly) of companies are making money off of Android devices.  Over-saturation of the market.
  • No, no, no, no - just no - this article is pooly researched, if you looked Aliyun offers android app support although it's not based upon Dalvik they allow Android apps, Google weren't happy with a mobile phone company they have a relationship with offering a rival system that ran their apps, and saying Android compatible would be a violation of any agreement with Google.
    This has NOTHING to do with Windows Phone 8 - they arn't blocking the OS just because it's competition but because it violates their agreements with Acer and offers Android apps without being an Android OS - that's what they have a problem with, they could use whatever they wanted for their other phones and Google couldn't do anything about it, but in this case they are right, example would be an OS that allows Windows Phone apps to be ran without it being Windows Phone 8 - that would be an issue.
  • With all do respect, are you saying that something that obvious managed to get by Acer's lawyers? That just seems a bit too easy. I mean, Acer certainly would have looked at their agreement with Google and been like "nope, says here we can't to do it!". Instead, they made a whole phone and were ready to sell it. How does such a major firm get so far in a phone's development without checking such obvious trip ups? I just find it difficult that you know more about Acer's agreements with Google more than Acer or their lawyers.  True, Google may not like that it's a "Android clone" (whatever that means as Android is open source, based on Linux) but the reason you cite is not given by anyone as an explanation. Edit: I should also point out that RIM's Playbook has Android apps "converted" to be used on their device and that is not sanctioned by Google either. Seems dubious to claim an open source OS can not run Open Source apps, no? But give me a source that backs up your claim and I'll consider it.
  • The same way Microsoft bungled "Metro", perhaps.
  • Might you explain exactly how they "bungled" Metro? Metro was never a brand, a product, an application nor an OS. It's just a code name like Longhorn, Natal, Mango, Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich etc.
  • What do you mean "open source apps"? Just because the OS is open source doesn’t mean the apps that run on it are too.
    I can’t find anything written about this, but aliyun's app store looks full of pirated apps, probably taken from Google’s market and reposted there. RIM did have the same problem with people submiding stolen apps to their Android marketplace, not as bad as this though.
    I'm fairly sure KtouchMobile is not the developer of Fruit Ninja or Angry birds space
  • Google doesn't own the apps in their stores, 3rd party developers do.
    These developers already submit their apps to multiple stores (Amazon's store, I think Samsung has one as well).
    Unlike ios and WP there's no limitation on creating other appstores and including them with Android.
    Now, even if the apps were pirated (which we will assume they were since I didn't hear about developers submitting apps to this new store) it's not really Google's issue.
  • Yeah I know that. As it turns out members of the open handset alliance agreed not to build devices with incompatible versions of Android. Kind of disappointed really, as I thought that google finally took some actions to protect their developers.
  • Lol at "do respect" :P
  • Apple sues samsung, samsung looses while google backs away
    Samsung gets pressured from google to not run new os
    Samsung does it anyway
    Samsung jumps in with WP8 MS/Apple cross licensing alliance and stops suits
    all three become wealthier
    Google goes back to the search playground.
    works for me - I use Bing and, i cut the Android cord when the boss of Google said, "If you dont want it tracked, dont use our services."
  • Abandoned Google as well when he said that. Never had an android, all my friends had one or an iPhone, just used their services.
  • I think there's politics as well as competition involved here. Google has had to deal with China before, and a homegrown OS would probably be dangerous for Google in a situation where the government feels like it's time to sanction some things and regulate others.
  • I heard that Google gives Samsung new Android codes a week or two before they give he same thing to hTC, which allows Samsung a little more time to optimize the performances.  I was told it was in part to punish hTC being the biggest Windows Phone OEM before Nokia, and in part for too much customerization.
    I kind of have doubts on how exactly Google can force an OEM to do, or not do certain things though.  Other than having the codes earlier than they put it on the supposedly open source server, I don't see a lot of things Google can do, or they probably already did that to Amazon.  Seriously.  Can Google block all access to the server from, say  That sounds pretty crazy.
  • I think I don't understand what open source means.
  • Its in strickt word free code for everybody to use and dig in to whenever people want. There is no access for people to Android during development rendering a not truly open source project.
  • Any good thing can always be abused in some way for profit. Free may not always be really free. Android is more like freemium. Its free candy to tempt and lock you into the Google store and ecosystem. That's where the real cake is and they are sure not going to let another Android compatible app store and ecosystem (eg. Aliyun) share it. I am not surprised if they really did threaten the OEMs because what else can they do as they cannot legally stop Aliyun.
  • Google don't be evil.
  • Google is like that one person in high school... Always trying to stir the pot and cause drama. Get a life Google...
  • It's not even close to possible.  Despite Android being more popular on phones right now, Microsoft has considerably more weight to throw around here, because of Windows.
  • "Reportedly Google threatened to cancel Acer’s license to make Android devices"
    I don't really understand this. Why exactly does Acer, or anyone for that matter, need a license to make Android devices?
  • To get all of the Google apps, you need to meet their criteria.  That includes Chrome, the Market, the Gmail app, Google Maps/Navigation, etc.  While the open-source Android contains a browser, it contains the old one, which is much, much worse than Chrome.
  • I see, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying.
  • "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." - The Who
  • Well said.
  • This can't be possible. google is all about openness and free exchange of ideas. There no way they would bully others. :)
  • lol
  • Ahh, haha...I see what you did there lol =P
  • I work for Google and I think this is gay, not Gay. There's a BIG difference. Lol
  • Your statement is very confusing to me.
  • There's enough Google stupidity in the article, you don't really need to add more
  • I think Samsung is now too powerful for google to consider losing, all be it extremely unlikely.
  • This. They can bully the smaller OEMs into submission but they can't really force Samsung or HTC to do something they don't want to.
    Not convinced entirely about this one doesn't seem like Google is going specifically after the threat of other OSs popping up as I doubt any of these new systems would even come close to threatnening Android. The only real threat is Microsoft and I doubt Google has it in them to publically pick a fight with the company that is collecting royalties to let OEMs use Google's own OS. 
  • Would Acer risk?
  • I don't think this will be a problem for Windows Phone. Actually I think Android will have a difficult life once Windows 8 comes to the market. It will totally destroy Android on tablets and I don't know how far can an OS go in the future if it is going to be just on phones and nothing else. The ecosystem needs to be stronger than that and I don't really se Android growing beyond smartphones.
  • You might be right.
  • I'm not sure they could've gone beyond the smartphones without win 8. they been trying to sell tablets for a while now and no one is buying them
  • Google is leaning on their partners when they use competing OSs, yet they buckled and vanished when Samsung felt the burning wrath of apple. They are building great relationships...
  • Its not surprising. Big corporations are not your friend. Google, Apple, and Microsoft do whatever they can to make profits. Though google likes to pretend its some kind of angel, they are no different. (but not really any worse either)
  • To me there is a difference between one corporation's make or break investment to create a product that they are confidence enough to tempt OEMs to support them and another corporation's cowardice to threaten OEMs to not support competitors. In this case, I can clearly see who wins the top meanie award.
  • Microsoft do back up there oems when it comes to legal action, google just runs away at the first sign of trouble. android is like a bad drug all is good in the beginning until you are hooked then the pain begins.
  • That's what they get. The OEM brought this on themselves by refusing to offer anything other than Android. They put Google in power now they have to fix it.
  • Corporate Nazis , just like apple.. People call MS, M$ .. Ha! More like g$$le and a$$le (apple)
  • Ah godwin's law...never fails
  • Tin foil hats anyone?  China market is probably the major reason and relating this to other OEMs globally is a reach. By Fall 2013 Google Tablets will be DOA and thus Acer can tell Google to stuff it. Until then, they oblige. Business 101.
  • The phrase "Restraint of trade" springs to mind somehow. Also the Google 'creep factor' just jumped a few more points.
  • Is this article about Acer or Asus? There seems to be a non-conclusive amount of each.
  • Only Acer.
  • So Google, what was that again "don't be evil"..
  • It is just a gimmick to win over naive techies. It is meaningless to me because Google has their own definition of evilness, and that definition changes as time goes on.
  • When an OEM using Android encounters patent infringement charges......
    Google: "Android is provided for free and AS-IS, so take your own responsibility."
    When an OEM does something pisses Google off......
    Google: "Android is MINE. Show your loyalty or I'll repossess MY Android."
    That's great. It's a WIN-WIN situation -- Google wins twice.
    Of course OEMs can still use Android for free without Google's authorization, but they will lose the access to the official marketplace and other proprietary services, pretty much like those dirt cheap knock-off smartphones and tablets from China.
  • Google smells...
  • There's a difference of pressuring to not break the law and breaking the law with pressure.
  • Walter white "stay out of my territory"
  • lmao, nice
  • I think it's a bit of a jump to assume Google would attempt to push OEMs away from WP8.  This is a special circumstance.
    As I understand it, Aliyun is forked from Android and can run Android apps natively.  More importantly, their app store is filled with pirated Android apps.
    Google seems justified in pressuring OEMs against it.
  • Maybe Microsoft should also pressure their OEMs not to build PCs that can run pirated version of Windows and games too.
  • There's a significant and obvious difference between building PC's that can run pirated OS's and software and actually shipping a device with an OS that includes a store dedicated to pirates software already installed
  • So does that mean that if Acer ships the OS without the store app, Google will be fine with it then? No they won't. Its not about the store, its about the OS. They did not want an Android clone as clearly demonstrated by their response in the WSJ article. Google said it objected to the Acer device because Aliyun was a "non-compatible" version of Android.
  • Microsoft doesn't threaten, they enter into negotiations for FRAND so that the costs for using the patents are fair (whether the patents are fair is another question). Acer could easily switch to a better business relationship if needed.
  • Seems risky for Google to try this with Samsung. Samsung calling their bluff and going exclusively Windows phone would be a heavy blow to Android as a popular phone platform. 
  • Google putting pressure on Samsung? HAHAHAHA funniest joke today. I expect Samsung to kick out Google soon once they decide that they want to control their OS Amazon style. Google cannot possibly pressure Samsung but Samsung can just crash Google's Android business if they see fit.
  • Samsung could kill andoid tmo and it would be all over.
  • I guess the Do No Evil company really wants to be The Evil Empire. it's one think to steal IP left and right it's a whole other thing to try and force other companies to only use your OS.
    Of course, in this case it's not really the OS they license since that's open source (and you wouldn't see those Android 4.0 Kindle Fires if Google could stop it)
    Amazon uses bing, Nokia maps and their own app store to replace Google's licensed apps. If Google pushes too hard, they might see the same with other Android companies.
    Amazon would love to have their appstore be the default on Samsung android phones. they could also work a deal to have their other free apps (kindle, amazon mobile, audible) pre-installed.
    Microsoft would love to see bing as the default search engine on these devices as well.
    I don't really see Google risking losing the biggest Android OEM they have
  • I can't help feeling that they would run foul with the European anti trust? dudes.  If Android is the dominant mobile OS, which it is, wouldnt this be seen as illegal?  It would be the same as MS saying to PC manufacturers no OEM OS for you if you also sell your PC's with Linux on.
  • Guys, please don't play this FUD game...
  • That makes more sense. I was think Android was open source anyway. Cant see how Google could legally stop anyone from using it unless there were something else besides use of android at stake.