Kindle Fire: The Android tablet that isn't

Calling the Kindle Fire an Android is great for market share stats but misleads developers and users, to Android's peril

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Amazon forked Android from the Google version in such a way to lock users to the Amazon Appstore and lock out the Google Play app store. That's because Amazon's business model is selling content -- books, videos, and music -- and like Apple is doing so in a largely proprietary way. Yes, e-books can be read on almost every platform, music can be imported into iTunes or Android's Music Manager, and videos can be viewed on iOS devices via the Amazon Instant Video app -- Amazon is not as proprietary as Apple. But apps you get for your Android smartphone won't run on a Kindle Fire, and moving videos and music to it involves contortions few users will go through -- which is the idea.

Google is not happy with Amazon's fork, which is probably why last fall Google changed the Android license to prevent third-party developer SDKs. That'll keep Kindle Fire app development based on older versions of Android, unless Amazon decides to enable Google Play on the Kindle Fire. Fat chance, as that would cut Amazon's content revenues -- and remember that Amazon basically sells its Kindle Fires at cost, counting on content revenues for its profits.

Google is not likely to accommodate Amazon, either. It's been copying the Apple and Amazon media-centric approach in the last year -- its Nexus 7 tablet was all about that, and even its Nexus 10 tablet is biased toward such usage by putting Google Play services front and center.

It's great that the Kindle Fire is a popular media tablet, even if it's inferior to Apple's iPad ecosystem. But it's not really part of the Android universe. It runs different apps and is designed not to fit the Android ecosystem. As long as that's the case, people should distinguish between Kindle Fires and other Android tablets to get a true picture of relative market share and, if you're a developer, accurately figure out where to invest development resources.

This article, "Kindle Fire: The Android tablet that isn't," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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