Android's own Andy Rubin took to blogging this evening to respond to the reports floating around about Acer pulling out of a planned launch of an Aliyun OS powered-smartphone in China. Aliyun is an OS that uses the Android runtime -- that's a fancy name for the bits in the OS that can run the apps.
Acer abruptly canceled the phone launch, while journalists were in the air traveling to the event itself. A statement from Alibaba, the Chinese web giant, said that "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," according to correspondence received by CNet. This has caused quite a stir, as it doesn't sound very friendly or "open."
Rubin then wrote a post at the official Android blog that explains the OHA (Open Handset Alliance) a bit, mentioning that one of it's primary goals is to ensure compatibility between vendor versions of Android so that applications have the same APIs and instructions. In other words, Google wants the app you write for vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich to perform as it should on HTC's Sense or Samsung's TouchWiz. Working together, everyone involved can build the platform together.
While there are still compatibility issues now and then, Google's response sets the record straight about a couple things. They don't mind anyone forking Android into something else, but if you want to be an OHA member, you'll need to follow the basic rules. According to Rubin, an inspection of the apps available for Aliyun OS show that this wouldn't be happening. Differences in the operating system meant that apps weren't compatible enough for regular Android. Therefore, while Acer was welcome to work with Aliyun OS, it would cost them their OHA membership. It's worth mentioning that Amazon is not a member of the OHA.
It's a bit of a spiderweb to follow, but essentially Google's position is that you're either with us, or you're not. They don't necessarily care that you want to use Android to create something else, but they don't want you to play with the rest of the cool kids if you do it.
I'm not yet sure how I feel about that, and will have to think about it a bit -- look for some more thoughts over the weekend as I think them. I see both positives and negatives. For now, check out these links to get a better grasp on the situation, and I'd love to hear your feelings and feedback in the comments.