Amazon Fire OS looks to be replaced by Linux flavor over Android - The UpStream

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Amazon Fire OS looks to be replaced by Linux flavor over Android

posted Saturday Nov 11, 2023 by Scott Ertz

Since Amazon first launched its line of Fire hardware, they have used an altered version of Android, based on the Android Open Source Project, as their Fire OS. This decision allowed the company to get to market quickly and power a wide variety of devices. It also allowed for a robust ecosystem of apps, though not distributed through Google Play. Now, the company wants to move away from Android and into its own home-grown platform, which is codenamed Vega.

What is Fire OS?

Fire OS is a mobile operating system based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). It is developed by Amazon for their devices. Fire OS includes proprietary software, a customized user interface primarily centered on content consumption and heavy ties to content available from Amazon's storefronts and services.

Amazon began referring to the Android derivative as Fire OS with its third iteration of Fire tablets. Unlike previous Fire models, whose operating system was described as "based on" Android, Fire OS 3.0 was described as "compatible with" Android. Fire OS was first released in November 2011 with Amazon's first Kindle Fire tablet and was based on Android's Gingerbread 2.3.3 OS.

Today, Fire OS is used across the company's media consumption devices. This includes Fire tablets, Fire Sticks, and some Fire TVs.

A change in platforms

A series of data leaks have suggested that Amazon is working on changing up its platform basics. In fact, it looks as if the company has been working on the replacement for Android for years. Corporate job listings, forum posts, as well a few public comments on LinkedIn have led reporter Janko Roettgers at Lowpass to conclude that the project has been in progress since at least 2019.

The scattered information, when combined together, suggests that the core development of the operating system has already been completed and SDK and developer projects are what is left before pulling the trigger. The application infrastructure will be done, not through Android programming, but instead through the JavaScript application framework React Native. Interestingly, this would make the new Fire OS less like the previous Fire OS and more like the long-defunct webOS (at least for phones).

The problems with transition

Another similarity between a JavaScript-based Fire OS switch and Palm's switch to webOS is application carryover. Right now, Fire OS has a lot of developers that have gotten behind the platform and built software for it. That includes the big-name media companies, but also app developers for the tablets. However, since a new version of Fire OS would not be Android-based, the likelihood of developing backwards compatibility is slim.

So, that leaves the company with an application hole. Previous apps would no longer be compatible, and new apps would need to be developed. But, not all of the companies will be interested in completely rebuilding their apps for yet another platform and using another framework. Palm encountered this issue with webOS when developers that had apps for PalmOS for years never migrated their apps to webOS. The application gap is part of why Palm failed with their transition. The application gap is also why Windows Phone failed in the market.


Can Amazon overcome the application gap and make a straight Linus-based Fire OS replacement work? It's possible. What will be lost, for sure, is applications that are no longer maintained. But, it will be an uphill battle and will likely cost a lot of money and resources to get developers back onboard. And with the hardware and services division already hemorrhaging cash, it's possible this plan gets thrown in the trash.


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