Amazon Kindle Fire HD has a locked bootloader

Shortly after the first Amazon Kindle tablet was released in November, 2011, hackers rooted the tablet and then started installing custom firmware replacing Amazon’s firmware with other versions of Android. Now that the 2nd generation Kindle Fire and the Kindle Fire HD are shipping, hackers are finding it a slightly tougher nut to crack.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

Unlike the original Kindle Fire, the new models ship with locked bootloaders.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to root the tablet — you don’t need access to the bootloader to run unsigned code, install the Google Play Store, or make other changes.

But it does mean that it will be much tougher to install CyanogenMod or other custom ROMs on the Kindle Fire HD or other new models than it was with the original. Tougher… but not impossible. The B&N NOOK Tablet also has a locked bootloader, but hackers figured out a way to work around it by activating a 2nd bootloader which lets you load custom ROMs such as CyanogenMod 10.

But even if that sort of thing is possible with the new Kindle Fire tablets, it will probably take more work than simply installing ROMs on a device with an unlocked bootloader.

Amazon’s move isn’t surprising. The company is selling Kindle Fire tablets at or near the price it costs to build them. Amazon doesn’t expect to make money on hardware sales. Instead, the retailer makes money when customers buy eBooks, music, movies, apps, and other digital content for the Kindle Fire. So if you buy one and then proceed to replace Amazon’s operating system (and digital content stores) with custom ROMs and alternate app stores, Amazon doesn’t make much money, if any at all.

But while the Kindle Fire may be a digital delivery, advertising, and content machine for Amazon services, it’s also a pretty nice piece of hardware with a good screen, reasonably fast processor, and other features that you’d often find in more expensive tablets. So I’d also be surprised if hackers didn’t try to turn the Kindle Fire into a cheap general purpose tablet.

  • http://rationaldreaming.com/ Mike

    Least surprising news of the week. The Amazon tablets are intended solely as popular conduits for selling their stuff to consumers. Anything else is a net loss for them. It’s really an escalation of the battle for the consumer over the likes of Apple and (latecomers) Google. It places their products front and center, integrating them into entire user experience.

    Expect others to follow suit.

  • eh

    I’d rather Amazon work on getting their video, audio and ebook ecosystem working well on many devices. It’d be great to read a book on my desktop, notebook and smartphone. It would be nice to browse and purchase a video on my smartphone and then later watch it on my TV either via an HTPC or smart TV. Maybe pause the video and resume watching it on my smartphone later.

  • adri

    I’m holding back a purchase of the Kindle HD until I see how easy it is to root and how vibrant the ROM community around it will be. I get why Amazon wants to lock in users to their stores. However, getting buzz from the custom ROM communities and ramping up unit sales can also be of benefit to Amazon. The more units they sell the more units they will sell.

    • http://rationaldreaming.com/ Mike

      I think you’re way overestimating the demand from the rooting and hacking community in terms of overall sales. When you’re aiming to sell tens of millions of devices, a few thousand rooters (or even tens of thousands, which I doubt there are) aren’t even going to register on Amazon’s consciousness.

      I’m a rooter and a hacker myself — I have a rooted B&N Nook Color — but I’m realistic enough to know that while it’s fun, and can save you a few dollars here and there, it’s almost never really worth the savings when you factor in all the time and frustration involved trying to get everything installed and working. If it’s a hobby, fine, but it’s just not worth it for the vast majority of people.

      Personally, I’ve considered buying another refurbish device and putting CM10 on it, but having had to deal with all kinds of crashes and bugs on CM7 and CM9 on my Nook, can see the great attraction of just spending a little more and getting a device that just works out of the box. Thus, how many people are going to want to fiddle around with rooting a Kindle Fire HD, and then have to deal with bugs and unstable builds for months instead of spending a few dollars more to buy a Nexus 7 or some other frontline tablet?

      Very few, I’d wager, and certainly not enough for Amazon to care one way or another.

  • bobcat

    does this actually work
    if if does someone tell me as at the moment I´m holding
    back on this mod