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Amazon could replace Android with its own OS, but history shows it shouldn’t

Amazon has reportedly been working its own operating system for Fire devices for quite some time. The new Fire OS, dubbed “Vega,” is in the late stage of development and has already begun appearing on some current devices.



But with an Android-based Fire OS already a staple on Amazon hardware, why did Amazon decide to reinvent the wheel, leaving its Android software roots behind? It’s been a burning question on our minds since the rumors of an in-house OS started materializing. But after looking back at Amazon’s track record with software development, one has to really wonder how this new Vega initiative will pan out if Android is no longer the basis of key hardware like tablets.



Amazon doesn’t have the best track record with software

It isn’t Amazon’s first rodeo building software from scratch. But looking back at the company’s history, its resume for building good software is lacking — often missing key features and the needed infrastructure. Most of the time, Amazon falls short of being a good competitor, so it resorts to purchasing the competition, eventually wiping the slate clean from failed experiments (the death of Comixology comes to mind).

Amazon’s large-and-in-charge Scribe e-reader went from being a potentially good, competitive product to fine upon release. That’s all thanks to Amazon cutting corners by launching with half-baked software it has been busy updating all year. For a premium e-reader advertised as a note-taking device, the experience still doesn’t quite stack up to competitors like reMarkable: poor cloud integration, limited ways to annotate books and a limited handwriting-to-text, the lack of polish and forethought add up.


Skinning Android has proven fruitless

Amazon Fire Max 11 had a pitiful showing; the most expensive midrange tablet at the time looked absolutely gorgeous but had terrible software that was hard to look past. Much like the failed Amazon Fire Phone, the lack of Google apps means you have to rely on Amazon’s Appstore, leaving you with a miserable limited Android experience.

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Just imagine losing the ability to sideload apps permanently because of an Androidless OS. You could potentially lose some of the best apps that have carried the Android ecosystem for over a decade. And even now, Google Play Store offers over 3 million apps alone. At the same time, Amazon’s Appstore only provides a small fraction of that number (less than a million) — and so many of those apps require subscriptions to operate. Now, imagine an even smaller pool of apps with Vega.


With the Amazon Appstore likely missing or incredibly limited on Vega, you’ll most probably be stuck with Amazon’s first-party services. This will be good for Amazon but bad for user choice, which means you can kiss some of your favorites goodbye, like access to EverNote, Spotify Kids, and Snapchat — apps you could easily knab right now for existing Fire Tablets just by sideloading the Google Play Store.

But even with Amazon’s minimalist approach to software, it’s unlikely anyone wants a premium tablet in 2023 with a bunch of restrictions attached. Sure, sideloading was a fine solution to extend the abilities of a Fire Tablet, but that can quickly change when Vega rolls around. Perhaps this is why Amazon would like to move away from Android, to have more control over the development of the OS on its hardware. But if Amazon can’t even adequately skin Android to good results, making a better OS/firmware from scratch seems unlikely. And no company will support a new platform if you have nothing to show for it, which means apps won’t be forthcoming.


Let’s not forget the disaster that is Amazon Lumberyard

An absolute failure of a software project by Amazon is its old gaming engine, Amazon Lumberyard. Amazon abandoned the engine after it struggled to launch the titles it was working on, which led to eventually handing the keys over to the Linux Foundation to be salvaged as an open licensed engine. Thanks to some tweaks and a few changeups, Amazon’s old junk turned into Open 3D Engine.

flying space shuttle into the sun

To this day, developers still avoid touching Amazon’s legacy engine and much prefer to dabble with the more prominent competitors of Unity. And games like Star Citizen have been stuck in development hell (for over a decade) since swapping to Lumberyard. Other games (like New World) were riddled with bugs, which made players fault the devs for being too inexperienced. It would seem the engine wasn’t received well by developers or players.


Unsurprisingly, Amazon Games has had a bad run of getting its titles off the ground. For such a titan-sized company, its gaming division hasn’t kicked off, even after hiring top talent to develop “AAA” games. The company continues to have layoffs across all sections, and canceled games like Lord of the Rings and Crucible, which ended up being a huge expenditure (and a loss to the company). All these canceled games surely point to Amazon’s inability to create competent software.

Does Amazon actually have what it takes to replace Fire OS?

Now that we’ve had a chance to ruminate over Amazon’s coding track record, one has to wonder if Amazon has what it takes to ensure Vega is designed to replace the Fire OS. We know the new OS will come to a few Fire devices next year, but we don’t know if Amazon plans to backport Vega or if it will be mostly exclusive to new-gen hardware. What we do know is that developers will have to build new apps tailored to this platform, so whether Vega will come installed on a Fire Stick or Fire Tablet makes little difference; Amazon has quite the uphill battle to reach parity with Android.