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Amazon has been using a fork of Android called Fire OS to power its Fire tablets, Fire TV devices, and smart screens for years. But we recently learned that the company is developing its own operating system, code-named Vega, which could eventually replace Android on some or all of those devices.

Well, surprise! It turns out that Amazon has already replaced Android with Vega on at least one device. Zatz Not Funny spotted the new software running on an Amazon Echo Show 5 Kids Edition (3rd-gen) smart screen, and a little Googling suggests that this device has been running Vega-based software for at least a month or two.

Amazon Echo Show 5 Kids Edition running the Vega-based OS 1.1 (via ZatzNotFunny)

It’d be easy to miss the change, as the user experience is pretty much the same. But under the hood, the software seems to have changed enough that you can no longer use the Echo Show 5 running Vega OS to stream videos from Netflix (possibly because Netflix hasn’t developed a Vega-compatible app yet).

Does this mean that Vega is on its way to Fire tablets and TVs? Maybe. According to Janko Roettgers, who first alerted us to Amazon’s move to develop its own operating system in-house, the company wants to move away from Android across its whole product lineup.

But it’s a lot easier to do that on a smart speaker or smart display than it is a table or smart TV. Most Echo devices are basically local clients for cloud-based virtual assistant software. Rather than apps, they run “skills,” and developers basically target the cloud platforms rather than the device hardware itself.

Tablets and TVs, meanwhile, aren’t much use without support for third-party apps, and it’s unclear if Amazon has enough pull with developers to get a critical mass to port their apps to a new platform.

It’s worth noting that Google has already taken a similar approach by rolling out its Fuchsia software to its own smart screens, while continuing to use Android for smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

So maybe the Echo Show 5 Kids Edition running Vega is a sign of things to come for Amazon’s entire hardware lineup. Or maybe it just represents the future of Echo-branded devices.

Either way, this wouldn’t be the first time Amazon quietly changed its Echo software without making a big deal of it. Elias from AFTVNews pointed out Amazon Echo devices originally shipped with a custom operating system developed in-house by Amazon, but later moved to Android. You can see the changes if you look at an old version of the Echo source code page through the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine: the original Echo and Echo Dot jumped from Echo software versions 1.x and 2.x to version 5.x around the time Amazon started using the Android-based Fire OS 5.

via ZatzNotFunny and Lowpass

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  1. They can probably do whatever they want on the Echo Show. I, unfortunately, bought one thinking it’d be useful but it’s worthless and not worth $5.

  2. I can understand a few reasons they would want to do this, but app availability seems like it would be a major problem. How are they going to convince app developers to build apps for them?

    I can’t find much info on Vega OS. Is it maybe going to run Android apps using some kind of translation layer? If they’re going to have their own app compatibility, I feel like this will be a failure.

    1. For me I don’t use any apps on my Fire Stick and I don’t have an Amazon tablet. I expect no problems using a new OS as it is already invisible to me.
      Youtube has to work well… that would be a deal-breaker.
      If most Amazon tablet users are children running Youtube, they might not see very much push-back from the OS change.

    2. I can’t see a different OS working on a tablet, where many apps are run. But with a smart TV, porting the Top 20 streaming apps would likely suffice for 90% of the audience; going to Top 50 might get 95%.

    3. “Is it maybe going to run Android apps using some kind of translation layer?”

      As it was mentioned in the previous article here on liliputing, it looks like they’re betting on people using (or switching to) React Native, which is already used to make apps that can target both Android and iOS. It’s a big bet, but perhaps they don’t care about people using their devices to watch Netflix or sideloading Kodi (I do both with my Fire Stick). But then again, people could stop caring about their devices in turn and at least some users might also be Amazon Prime customers.