Well, this is awkward. China’s biggest e-commerce firm, Alibaba, was due to launch a new flagship phone for its Aliyun OS, made by Acer (TPE:2353), at a Shanghai event this afternoon. But it was cancelled at the very last moment under mysterious circumstances – and now Alibaba claims that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in some way intervened to stop its Android partner, Acer, from taking part in the launch.
Acer is a partner of Google in building Android phones, and that seems to be at the core of Google’s objection. But a number of smartphone-makers build for two or more platforms, as seen with Samsung and HTC, so today’s developments are quite odd. Perhaps Acer has a contract with Google that would limits such outside partnerships. We talked to Google this evening, but a representative couldn’t comment, and we’ve to reached out to Acer as well, which has yet to explain anything. [UPDATE the next day: Acer says it can't comment as well].
This is an embarrassing incident for Alibaba. The e-commerce company distributed a notice via social media making it clear that Google caused this launch to be halted on account of its partnership with Acer. A spokesman for Alibaba’s cloud computing division (aka: Aliyun) slammed Google’s actions as “clearly unfair to consumers and we are concerned about the impact on customer access to competitive products.”
A separate Alibaba rep said:
We believe that by introducing the Aliyun OS we are giving consumers and hardware makers more options which is the foundation of a healthy and strong market. We think that it should be left to the market to decide.
The cancellation happened just after I’d already posted my hands-on review of the Aliyun-powered Acer CloudMobile A800 (pictured above), which I got time with at a separate event over the weekend. So, apart from a bunch of review photos from me and some other Chinese tech blogs, consumers will have to wait for the proper launch of what’s billed as the flagship phone for the Alibaba-made Aliyun OS. The mobile OS is Linux-based but is not a fork of Android, though it can run Android apps via virtualization. That’s not thought to be part of Google’s beef, though.
Aliyun OS launched last summer and – with the scuppering of the Acer A800 launch – is found on just two handsets so far, made by local manufacturer K-Touch and Haier. The Acer A800 was to be its first big-name device.