Amazon now allows Kindle Fire owners to browse the Android Market via the Silk browser. Ebook reader apps even briefly appeared on the Appstore before disappearing into the abyss again.
Just days ago we reported and confirmed that Amazon's Kindle Fire prevented owners from visiting the Android Market in the Silk browser. The 7-inch tablet reportedly contains a hidden utility app called "MarketIntentProxy.apk" which can detect when the end-user is hunting for an app, and will force a re-direct to the Amazon Appstore installed on the device -- literally hijacking the browser.
Now days later, Kindle Fire customers are reporting that they suddenly have access to the Android Market via the Silk browser. Like some kind of Christmas miracle, the recent firmware update not only brought smoother scrolling and the ability to delete icons from the carousel, but gives users permission to browse Google's library of Android apps. It's just too bad you can't actually install them, as you need a registered Android device, and the Kindle Fire isn't on Google's list.
As reported earlier, the way around Amazon's closed system is to just simply head to System/Device and turn on "Allow Installation of Applications." One way to get Android Market apps onto the tablet is to back up installed apps from an existing Android device using AirDroid or something similar. Once the app is saved to the hard drive, email it to the tablet or use apps like WiFi File Explorer that are readily available on Amazon's Appstore (this is how we installed Firefox 9 for Android on the Kindle Fire).
In related censorship news, TechCrunch reports that Amazon has lifted a block on 3rd-party e-reader apps provided by Wattpad, Kobo, Bluefire and others. Reasons for blocking the apps from the Kindle Fire are likely similar to the reasons for initially blocking the Android Market: to create a closed system.
"I’ve just been told by Bluefire that their app had been tested for the KF when it was submitted to Amazon," writes The Digital Reader in November. "Amazon told Bluefire that the app was compatible, so there’s absolutely no reason for it to not be listed. Amazon is hindering their competition from their tablet."
But Wattpad -- whose e-reader app was clearly listed on the desktop version of Amazon's Appstore among others -- reportedly didn't think much of the tablet ban and "engaged in conversations" with the online retailer. This reportedly led to a necessary change in policy for all e-reading app developers. It's believed that, like the Android Market block that magically disappeared, the latest firmware update erased the 3rd-party e-reader blocks as well.
However as of this writing, Wattpad's app seems to be the only ebook reader listed on the Kindle Fire version of Amazon's Appstore. Wattpad’s Amy Martin also confirms this via TechCrunch, saying that the apps were available Wednesday evening, but have since disappeared. A search for Kobo and Bluefire leads to empty results. Is this a firmware glitch, or is Amazon still preventing the sale of 3rd-party ebooks directly from the Kindle Fire?