Amazon set to ditch Android in ‘all devices’ — it's starting with Fire TV and Echo Show

Fire TV interface on the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen)
(Image credit: Future)

Amazon is reportedly developing a new operating system to power its ever-growing hardware portfolio. At present, the company uses its Fire OS, a fork of open source Android that sits inside the likes of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, Fire Tablet series and Echo Show speakers. But that could be about to change. 

Various sources are claiming Amazon is building its own OS codenamed "Vega" that'll help it move away from Android for its upcoming products. A report in LowPass, claims it's in the advanced stages of development, while Zatznotfunny suggests it's already here. In the former case, Amazon is testing it on Fire TV streaming sticks while the latter has seen it running on a 3rd generation Echo Show 5.

What we do know is that Vega OS will be a “more web-forward application model” and take its foundation directly from Linux rather than forking from Android (which itself is Linux-based).

On the Echo Show example, the on-screen information clearly shows the software being reset with naming and numbering reset to generic ‘OS 1.1’. And a further clue is the fact the OS 1.1 Echo Show no longer runs Netflix.

The reason for this (pretty big) change for Amazon? We’re not entirely sure but we can make some educated guesses. LowPass cites industry insiders claiming Amazon’s plan is to reach “hundreds of millions of eyeballs on a wide range of inexpensive devices” and, from there, “monetize those eyeballs with ads and services”.

An Echo Show 5 (3rd Gen) showing the smart home dashboard

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While using open source Android for years has allowed Amazon a level of customization without jeopardising Android app compatibility, it does come with some drawbacks. Notably, the fact that Amazon’s reliance on the Android Open Source Project means it can’t keep up with Google’s in-house Android advancements. 

That can be a problem when the two companies compete in hardware spaces like the best smart displays and the best Android tablets. For example, the Fire OS 7 version powering many current Amazon devices is based on Android 9 from 2018. Whereas the Google Pixel Tablet has come right out the gate on Android 14.

And if Amazon plans to extend into more hardware categories (the report mentioned in-car entertainment systems) then having a new OS built from the ground up could give Amazon far more flexibility when to implement the aforementioned monetization ideas.

Meanwhile, it seems like Amazon has also instructed app developers to switch to using Meta’s React Native as the framework for building apps for its hardware — doing so also enables those apps to work on a wide range of operating systems that include iOS and Android.

What’s more, because of its history as a mobile OS, Android’s code comes with a lot of baggage that’s not needed for running on low-cost smart home hardware. The result is a decrease in performance that wouldn’t be the case with a freshly-built “web-first” OS.

Last, but not least, moving away from Android would allow Amazon to untangle itself even further from dealings with Google and could lead to the retailer forging new and more profitable partnerships with other hardware vendors.

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Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.

  • Fifth313ment
    Yeah, if they go through with this I'll stop using Amazon devices. The only reason I even use their devices is due to Android compatibility. They should be lucky so many people keep them while they blast us with ADs 247.
  • Ramahan
    If Amazon goes through with this it will be so they can be a closed system like Apples where the only place you can get apps is from them and for me will be why all my Amazon devices * the trash can.
  • tommydeininger
    I think it's about time these companies that have made billions off of us do something not for profit but for the betterment of all
  • ATTN1
    Fifth313ment said:
    Yeah, if they go through with this I'll stop using Amazon devices. The only reason I even use their devices is due to Android compatibility. They should be lucky so many people keep them while they blast us with ADs 247.
    Could not agree with this more. I use several ANDROID apps on my firetv sticks - one is Channels. If they go away from Android, I can't get my local stations anymore.

    How could they even be allowed to do this on devices already sold? Amazon is getting to be too big, too selfish, and too destructive.
  • dragonwolf5589
    Yeh if they do this to my firecubes ill be selling and getting rid. 40% my apps are android apps i have to sideload as the amazon store is so poor. Got rid of roku for firecubes as it was only one that i could afford and compatible with apk files and google chromecast was too basic for me.

    Hope this is false and i will certainly get rid of all my alexa products if they do this. Its already filled with huge amount of ads as it is.
  • Fantomas7457
    So, no Netflix? Good luck with that, Amazon. That's like 60% of the use case of my older Fire tablet.

    Maybe the OS doesn't matter for pure smart speakers as long as there's an Android app (I use quite a few routines). I find their Alexa is lagging behind, it's the epitome of artificial dumbness, in 2023 these things should be Chatbot gAI level. I have four of them (insane, but we don't use physical light switches much anymore). Way too often Alexa struggles even with setting a kitchen timer⌛ and I stopped asking it questions due to the poor quality. I lowered my expectations to getting the news and play Spotify music. Even asking for the weather is less then impressive. But that's off topic.