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Google Blocked Amazon From Offering Another Android to Phone Makers

When 'open' isn't really open.

KIF LESWING, BUSINESS INSIDER
20 JUL 2018

One curious detail from the European Commission's announcement of a $US5 billion fine against Google involves another tech giant: Amazon.

As an example of how Google's Android licensing practices have frozen out other companies, the EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said that Amazon tried to break into the smartphone market in 2012 and 2013 with its FireOS operating system, a highly modified version of Android.

 

"This was not just a remote possibility from theory books. In 2012 and 2013, Amazon tried to licence to device manufacturers its Android fork, called FireOS. It wanted to cooperate with manufacturers to increase its chances of commercial success," Vestager said.

"And manufacturers were interested. But due to Google's restrictions, manufacturers could not launch FireOS on even a single device.

They would have lost the right to sell any Android phone with key Google apps. Nowadays very few devices run with FireOS, namely those manufactured by Amazon themselves," she continued.

Currently, FireOS is the software that powers Amazon's Fire Tablets, Fire TV streaming boxes, and Echo line of devices.

It's a highly modified version of Android, often called a "fork," and it has a custom user interface. FireOS is on its fifth major version.

But one device that FireOS is not currently found on is a smartphone.

Shortly after Amazon tried to licence FireOS, according to Vestager's timeline, it announced the Fire Phone, a high-end iPhone competitor running FireOS.

It didn't sell well, and Amazon eventually took a $US170 million loss on unsold units.

 

"Some of these things take iterations," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained to Business Insider in late 2014.

"With the phone, I'd ask you to stay tuned," he continued.

Maybe Amazon would have had more luck iterating if other companies were also making Fire Phones. An Amazon representative didn't return a request for comment on Vestager's story.

/Beyond is ScienceAlert's new section covering the wider world of gadgets, games, and digital culture.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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