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Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablet devices ship with an operating system called Fire OS. And for more than a decade, that operating system has been a fork of Android.

But according to a report from Janko Roettgers, Amazon is looking to change that by developing its own operating system in-house. The new operating system is said to be a Linux-based OS that’s code-named Vega, and which has been under development for years, but which has “picked up steam more recently.” It could debut on Fire TV devices as soon as 2024.

When Amazon first began building tablets and media streamers, there were some clear advantages to forking Android. Google already did a lot of the work necessary to build an operating system that could run on those types of devices and to attract millions of app and game developers to those platforms.

And since Google offers an Android Open Source Project, it was easy for Amazon to take Google’s operating system and modify it for the company’s own purposes, while making it easy for Android developers to port their apps to Amazon’s platform.

But forking Android takes a lot of time and effort, which is why the latest version of Fire OS for tablets is based on Android 11, which was released in 2020. Fire OS for TVs is even more out of date, with the latest version based on Android 9, which was released in 2018.

Bringing development in-house will let Amazon roll out feature and security updates more quickly, while giving the company more control over the software that runs on its devices. Android was also developed first and foremost for smartphones, which means there’s a lot of code that’s completely unnecessary for Amazon Fire TV devices.

The move makes a lot of sense for Fire TV devices… assuming Amazon can encourage developers to create new versions of their apps that are compatible with the new platform using React Native rather than Android tools. And there are probably just a few dozen key apps that Amazon really needs developers to port in order for Fire TV devices to be useful for most users.

Of course, the move will also make it a lot harder for hackers and tinkerers to sideload Android apps like Kodi onto a Fire TV device. That’s probably good news for Amazon, but less good news for (some) end users. And if you’re thinking that this makes you less likely to buy a next-gen Fire TV device, keep in mind that if you were buying one specifically so that you could use it to run your own software rather than interacting with Amazon’s apps and services, Amazon probably doesn’t care about losing you as a customer anyway.

I’m a little more skeptical that we’ll see Amazon roll out a custom Linux-based OS for Fire tablets anytime soon. Fire Tablets are already crippled out-of-the-box when compared with Android tablets, since they ship with easy access to tens of thousands of apps Amazon Appstore rather than the millions of apps available from the Google Play Store. Moving to a custom OS would mean asking those developers to create new versions of their apps specifically for Amazon tablets.

But Roettgers reports that Amazon is looking to build an alternative to Android for all “devices and IoT,” which would certainly imply that future Fire tablets could ship with something other than Android under the hood.

Again, if that does happen, I suspect Amazon wouldn’t be sad to lose sales to customers who had been buying Fire tablets at cheap prices just so they could sideload the Google Play Store on them. After all, Amazon makes more money from customers who use Fire OS devices to buy apps, stream music and movies, and interact with other content from Amazon.

It does make me wonder though… what would happen to Amazon’s deal with Microsoft to make the Amazon Appstore available to folks who enable the Windows Subsystem for Android on their Windows PCs?

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  1. I was always surprised that Amazon forked Android. They are big enough that they need their own OS that they can have control over. Not to mention how much customization they make to Android, all that effort could be used to make a OS that fist better for them.

  2. Android is bulky(so the google chrome). this is a good move, lot’s of tech giants are building their own OSes.

  3. One of their options is to make their own OS that has a subsystem that can run Android apps. From Amazon’s perspective, that could be very attractive: you don’t lose compatibility with the apps, but you gain more control over the OS itself and the ability to more easily add whatever functionality you want at that level.

  4. I get it for the TV devices, and I’d imagine most of the apps we use at home will get ported. That probably won’t impact my decision to keep buying them or push me to switch to Roku.

    Switching the tablets is a ridiculous idea. They’d lose all but a handful of major-developer apps and games, including the revenue share they get for in-app purchases. It would have almost no use outside of Amazon’s own video, music, and books. Which is probably the whole plan.

    If anything, I’d rather see them go the other way and just put proper Android on their tablets. The hardware really is solid for its price. Going with an in-house Linux OS would just push customers to Onn, Samsung, and Lenovo.

    1. Yeah, I’m not really sure how likely that is, to be honest. Tablets are barely mentioned in Roettgers article, but he does suggest that Amazon’s looking to move ALL its devices away from Android eventually.

    2. Agreed. There’s probably not a large pool of apps that the average FireTV user installs on their FireTV device. It is probably a similar pool of big-name video streaming apps that users also install on their WebOS TVs. But, for the tablets, it is a completely different game.

      Maybe Amazon would go for a Linux based OS that is still able to install Android apps? Emulation layer?

      1. Nothing’s really stopping them from using waydroid except the fact that copyleft licenses mean they’d have to publish any improvements or dirty tricks they made and corporations hate having to do that except when they don’t.
        Also it’s still on Android 12 last I heard.
        I tried to check out the comment on Blind for the exact words but I don’t feel like making an account there since it’s not like I’d ever actually use an amazon device unless network effects forced me to.

        1. Okay so I actually went and installed it and it’s on Android 11. Which wouldn’t be a big deal for a device that can obviously just install native applications from its own repositories, but it is kind of a big deal for support of something where Android apps are the only software you’ll likely be allowed to install.

    3. Am using old touch pc with Intel 4th gen with fedora exclusively as a tablet. Linux + waydroid is much better than Android itself.

      I just hope this os will introduce Linux to mainstream and boost other os like Ubuntu touch and sailfish.

      1. It will be “Linux-based” but won’t be remotely Linux-y. It will have Linux kernel and so forth, but the average user won’t know anything about it.

        Also, Android is already based on Linux.

  5. If Amazon does this, then I’ll be out. I have several Fire Tablets including a new 11 Max and a Fire TV device on every TV. The OSs are compromised enough as is. If they go to Linux then we can say good bye to side loading apps. No thanks.

    1. Not sure it warranty not being at the whim of google policy, free some ressource ,assure longer support too
      Side loading is better on linux too
      It’s kinda like the beginning of android with every constructor own gui

    2. One can do more on Linux than Android or Windows based devices, because Linux is open source, rather than proprietary (locked) based. Yes, there’s a few tricks which can be accomplished on Firesticks, include adding a VPN by “sideloading” & then add Kodi & extra storage for a 100% private experience.

      However, even if Amazon changes their Firesticks, support won’t drop the next day, although it may make it harder to update current apps. Unless these too, can be found & sideloaded. In the meantime, keep these up to date & make sure all of the apps wanted are installed. Amazon themselves sells the necessary components to add up to 2TB in extra storage for $30 or so, plus cost of flash drive, or better yet, a low cost SSD, of which many has an extra laying around. Even the older & once popular 120-250TB (or so) SSD’s are far more storage than the puny 8TB which shipped in many, other than the latest, which got a bump to 16TB.

      There are plenty of YouTube videos which shows exactly how to perform the storage & VPN upgrades, as well as installing Kodi (why the VPN is needed).

      Hope this helps someone!