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.
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.