What Kindle Means for Android

[This is a copy of a guest post I wrote for GeekList. Find the original here.]

I still think Amazon would be stupid to build a phone. But I no longer believe they won’t do it. Within the next 6 months Amazon will go big with their own Android based smartphone.

And when they do, it will be the moment that everybody else realizes that Google lost control of Android ages ago.

“Google has already lost control of Android and has zero chance of regaining control.”
–me, January 14, 2012

“We treat Android like Linux, and so it’s a base operating system layer.”
-Jeff Bezos, September 6, 2012

In my post titled “Fragmentation Is Not The End of Android” I explained how to think about mobile platform fragmentation by breaking the problem down along the 5 axes where a platform can be fragmented. Then I gave examples of how fragmentation along any of these 5 axis, can impact the participants in the mobile ecosystem.

In that post, I focused mostly on discussing the OS Providers. I included commentary on Apple, Google, and Microsoft highlighting their asymmetric competitive nature, but focused on Google and why it had lost control of Android, and how, I believe, it will never regain control.

I explained how none of the tactics Google might try will work; the proverbial camel’s nose is under the tent and Google will never regain control of Android.

I ended that post with this:

Oh, and if after reading the above tome, you still don’t agree. Consider this article  about television. Remember, Android is not just about mobile…

Why? Because at the time that post was written, the Tablet Wars had not really begun, and most people were focused on the Smartphone Wars.

Originally, I was skeptical about how serious Amazon was about becoming either an OS Provider or Device Manufacturer. I (still) believe they can accomplish their business goals by providing their shopping & reading experiences on ALL devices, but Mr. Bezos & Co. appear to disagree with me and it is now clear they are diving head-long into selling their own devices, running their own OS, directly to consumers.

Amazon is directly competing with Google now on all of the “axes of fragmentation” of the mobile platform known as Android:

  • User Interface – The Kindle (and whatever Amazon’s smartphone is called) throw out Google’s UI look and feel and replace it with one unique to Amazon.
  • Device – Amazon is now, effectively, a device manufacturer.
  • Operating System – As Jeff Bezos points out “We treat Android like Linux…”.
  • Marketplace – This is Amazon’s core competency. No need for Play here.
  • Service – Fire up a Kindle and try to find any evidence of a Google service.

Other than some leakage of the Android brand within 3rd party apps, Amazon is doing all it can to keep its users from knowing their devices run Android.

In writing this, I am assuming Amazon will be at least moderately successful with both their tablets and phones. If that assumption holds true, then there is no turning back for Android.

“Google has already lost control of Android and has zero chance of regaining control.”
–me, January 14, 2012 and again today.


  1. sparroww says:

    Not going to happen. Who’s going to buy an Android phone without Google Maps, Gmail, Drive and all the other apps that are part of the Google experience? Even Apple has a hard time with maps and that’s core to their offering.

    1. MarcSilverTriple says:

      Would be curious to see some figures about Kindle Fire vs any Android agerage tablet to have some perspective…

    2. Bob says:

      People won’t be buying an Android phone. The will be buying a phone from the company that makes their e-reader, Amazon. They won’t know or care that it’s got Android inside.

      1. sparroww says:

        Still the same issue. If they comapare it to an iPhone or Android phone, they’ll see that it doesn’t have all the features that come standard in these phones.

        Amazon can try to roll its own, but as Apple has just found out it’s harder than it looks.

        1. Walt French says:

          Heh, it’s funny to remember these same words used against Apple back in 2007… by Palm, Microsoft and Moto, exactly none of whom are major players today.

          But just as Apple blew open the mobile business in 2007, where there’s a will, there’s a way. In Amazon’s case, they are widely reported to have inked a deal with Nokia’s Navteq mapping service, which really badly wants some smartphone revenue.

          I personally think Amazon doesn’t have the commitment/will to make a business in smartphones, but I sure wouldn’t rule them out.

          1. sparroww says:

            But Apple came out with a product that was revolutionary at the time.

            So if Amazon’s offering can’t have something that makes them stand out, it’ll be a hard sell.

            Personally, I’m all for more competition I just thin it’s a hard sell.

          2. Walt French says:

            So far, Amazon has NOT delivered any revolutionary tech, but they are sniffing around how to offer revolutionary financial bundling deals. It wouldn’t be out of reach for them to pick up the data cost of watching Amazon-rented videos, for instance, so that you could get a low-cost data contract, rather than the $70–$100 that other media-hungry cellphone users (outlandishly) pay.

            There’s more than one way to disrupt an industry. I imagine mostly incremental enhancements to the current screen-oriented technology, with seismic shifts due to a radically-better voice tech, or better ways to organize info, or better pricing plans. Companies are experimenting with all of these.

  2. stupid article says:

    you know why? Because kindles dont run android. An OS based on android code and app compatible but its not android. Do you say apples run unix?

    1. disappointing says:

      You know what they say, never let facts get in the way of a good rant.

    2. foobarbaz says:

      OSX is in fact certified, capital letters and trademarked, UNIX.

  3. Adam MacBeth says:

    The real fragmentation that Kindle will introduce is at the service API level, not the device API level.

    To date Android fragmentation has typically been described in terms of what breaks on different OEMs’ devices that are running CTS-certified versions of Android. Kindle is not CTS-certified, but uses the same device APIs, so most apps should more or less work. What you don’t get on Kindle is access to Google’s array of developer services. Amazon already has In-App purchase, Maps, and GameCircle APIs that differ from Google’s but mirror them closely (Google doesn’t have an GameCircle equivalent and a push messaging service is clearly needed on Amazon’s side).

    Google’s APIs will only work on devices that include Google services. Amazon’s may not be so restrictive, but for the most part look to target Kindle devices or those running the Amazon app store.

    Amazon has an incentive to make it easy for developers to get their apps onto Kindle devices and into the Amazon app store, but it’s still extra work for developers. Look for third-party toolkits and services to appear in an attempt make this process easier.

    1. Yep. You get it.

      1. Michael Salinger says:

        Except the real-world situation is quite different. Amazon’s tablet is a conduit for their content. Yes, they have apps, but many developers thus far have soured on Amazon’s treatment of developers. Apps frequently don’t get updated nearly as often as the Play store (if at all), and the catalog is frankly abysmal – it makes Windows Phone’s app catalog look fantastic. At the same time, Amazon continues to push forward all of their apps on competing platforms, so there really is no unique benefit to having a Kindle like their is to having Android (Google Services), having an iPhone (iTunes and the app store), or even having a Windows Phone (Microsoft Services).

        Second, their user experience still leaves something to be desired. The Kindle Fire is an Amazon storefront that happens to be able to run some Android apps, not a platform. What is really the use case for buying a Fire 7 when you can have a Nexus 7 for the same price and get all Google services PLUS the Kindle apps? Why buy a Kindle 9 when you can get an iPad for just $100 more? I just don’t see Amazon being a long-term serious player unless they really start to look at their Smartphone/Tablet ecosystem as a platform and not just a storefront, and so far they haven’t shown any inclination toward this end.

        1. I don’t disagree with any of your points, except that it appears the Fire is selling as many as Amazon can make regardless. Does this mean those customers don’t care? Or don’t know?

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