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Amazon reportedly plans to ditch Android for homegrown Fire OS

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Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The operating system ecosystem seems quite stable and well-established. On desktops and laptops we have Windows and MacOS (and let’s not forget Linux); on mobile devices, we’ve got the duopoly of Android and iOS, and on fixed home devices we mostly have Android and, on Apple devices, there’s tvOS and audioOS (aka HomePod).

But Amazon wants to change all that, according to a report by Janko Roettgers on Lowpass. Yes, the shopping giant wants to power Echos, Fire TVs, Kindles, and its other hardware using its own platform.

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Now, this new operating system — codenamed Vega — has been rumored for a long time. In fact, there’s been talk about this ever since Amazon broke into the hardware game.

But it also made sense for Amazon to let Google do the heavy — Android Open Source Project — lifting, and for Amazon to create a fork of this as a foundation for its own devices.

The current Fire TV runs on an operating system called Fire OS, which is itself built off a fork of Android 9. Now, if you’ve got better things to do than keep track of all things Android, it might have escaped you that the latest Android is version 14, and Android 9 was released in August 2018.

Would it be easier for Amazon to own the whole codebase? After all, a lot of the Android codebase revolves around things that smartphones and tablets need to do, stuff Amazon doesn’t need. Building an operating system is a lot of work, but given that the company already has a huge development team working on software to power its devices, it might be something that pays off.

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Then, as Roettgers reminds us, things have been fractious between Amazon and Google, with the search giant once going as far as trying to force hardware makers not to build Amazon smart TVs.

Amazon having its own operating system would free it from possible future Google hassles.

This also makes sense.

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Amazon’s business model is much different from Apple’s and Google’s — and from all the other players that are selling hardware. Amazon isn’t selling hardware, it’s selling services and solutions. Sure, to a lesser extent, you could say this about Apple and Google – especially Apple – but Amazon doesn’t need to make its money from the hardware. Amazon is happy to sell the hardware dirt cheap – a Fire TV stick is $40, and an Echo Show is $90 – and make its money on the other end.

Unless Amazon wants to break big time into smartphones or tablets — and there’s nothing to say that it won’t, but that’s a cutthroat-race-to-the-bottom market – then Amazon’s Vega is no threat to Android or iOS. In fact, the average user isn’t going to notice or care about the switch or what their Amazon device is running. 

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