For thousands of users, the Kindle Fire has been a welcome way to get a tablet without spending nearly $500. The promise of a fully functional Android tablet for a very low cost, though, has met with the realities of a branded tablet.
The Kindle Fire runs on a heavily modified version of Google’s Android operating system. The Amazon modifications include integration with the Amazon e-reader functionality, a different skin than most Android devices and a touchscreen interface that some have called sluggish. The Fire also limited what apps could be installed, most notably limiting competing e-reader apps.
The latest update to the Amazon Fire operating system allows for a bit more openness in the operating system. First, at least one competing e-reader app, WattPad, can be directly loaded onto the fire, instead of side-loaded with a computer. The newest Fire update also removes a built-in browser hijack that sends requests to go to the Android marketplace to the Amazon marketplace instead. The update still has a branded Amazon experience on the Fire and relies on the Amazon cloud and Amazon store for the media consumption.
The biggest difference between iOS and Android devices has, up to now, been the difference between a branded, carefully controlled device on iOS and a relatively open market and experience on Android devices. The flexibility of Android is being used by Amazon, and will likely be used by other companies, to create branded experiences on phones and tablet devices. These branded experiences are loved by some for making tasks more seamless; for others, being able to install apps freely is more important.
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