Kindle Tablet’s Android Fork A Smart Idea

Admittedly I was one of many people who were initially a bit shocked and disappointed by the news that the Kindle Tablet would run on a forked version of Android from a pre-3.0 base.  Since Android 3.0 was the first version optimized for tablets, and since I want the Kindle Tablet to be as useful a device as the Kindle, there seemed to be an important connection being missed somewhere along the line.  After a bit of further research, though, this could be a great move to establish the new ecosystem.

There were some analyst observations made recently that brought the truth of things out pretty well.  Essentially, since this isn’t just an early release of Android it may not matter quite as much that it isn’t based on the most recent release.  The best way to think of this may be as an alternative to Android.  The Kindle Tablet OS, by all accounts, is built on the Android base code but does not carry over any of the experience.  It seems like something of a slight to Google to take their offering and run in another direction with it, but that’s another matter entirely.

What makes this an observation worth making is the way it increases the Kindle Tablet’s potential for creating a real presence for itself.  On the developer end of things, Android development is forced to exist in such a fragmented environment at this point that there is no simple way to keep up with everything.  Amazon is in a position to immediately take a dominant position among non-iPad tablets.  The combination of a huge user base and a stable environment could be enough to persuade many developers to release software exclusively for the Kindle Tablet, even leaving out the ability to make assumptions about the hardware capabilities of the end user.  A greater selection of apps than competing tablets is a big draw for customers, if the iPad can be taken as an example.

On the customer end of things, Amazon has already proven to be more effective than Google in moderating the content of its own Android App Store.  They’ve also shown a fair degree of insight into meeting user demand, as demonstrated by the Kindle, Kindle Apps, and the websites in general.  Combine the expected $249 price with a unique and positive user experience and it is hard to argue with a purchase, especially compared to more expensive and less impressively backed competing tablets.

Yes, it would have been nice to see Amazon having used a more recent release as their starting point.  The fact that they didn’t does imply that they’ve been at work for quite a while making the best product possible.  The Ars Technica preview that brought so many of these details to our attention in the first place emphasized how fluid and intuitive the tablet was to use, so apparently they have made good use of that time.  While I will continue hoping for certain hardware improvements in the form of a high end Kindle Tablet(Hollywood?), there seems to be no reason to find fault with their software decisions at the moment.

5 thoughts on “Kindle Tablet’s Android Fork A Smart Idea”

  1. Amazon has done a better job of managing their app store, but they’ve also angered and alienated a large number of developers due to their pricing and “sales”.

  2. I like the idea of an Amazon tablet. But I’m going to wait and see how it does. I have a Kindle already and a very good Android phone (the original Droid Incredible). A tablet for me would have very little value add.

    I think the reason Android tablets don’t sell very well is that phones approaching a 5 inch screen size are good enough for most things. But an Amazon/Kindle branded tablet might just be different enough to go for.

    I’ll be watching.

  3. there are a lot of tablet vendors who have to use pre-3.0 snapshots. The reason for this is that google has not made the source for 3.0 available, and have stated that they don’t intend to.

    so vendors have the choice of building from a pre-3.0 snapshot, building a 2.3 system, or waiting another few months until the next release of android is out and then work on that.

    I fully expect that Amazon will switch to the next release shortly after it’s available, but I fully understand why they are working with a pre-3.0 snapshot before that.

  4. David,

    Completely right on that. I think the main reason for the surprise involved earlier seemingly credible accounts that Amazon was actually working with Google to get the tablet ready with the newest software possible. It probably would have helped them head off a now completely plausible situation wherein Amazon has more success with Android than Google does going forward.

  5. I have an iPad and a Kindle 3, and I’ve been looking for a small tablet for some time – I specially liked the PlayBook form factor, but it turned out to be a disappointment. If the Kindle Tablet really does have a smooth UI and costs U$250, I’ll certainly buy one when it launches.

    Matthew, could you share the Ars Technica preview’s link? I’ve been searching but couldn’t find it!


Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.