The Kindle Fire is A Big Open Source Bet from Amazon

by Sam Dean - Sep. 30, 2011Comments (1)

Amazon's announcement of the Kindle Fire tablet, a $199, 7-inch color touchscreen tablet based on Android, has been much in the news this week. The Kindle, after all, has been a surprise success for Amazon, illustrating that a company that nobody expected to be a leader in mobile hardware could deliver a game-changing device. But Amazon's continuing success with the Kindle, and the Kindle Fire, also create one of the strongest arguments for mobile open source platforms yet, and underscore how much ground Android still has to cover as it arrives on new devices.

In a post called "The Kindle Fire and the Triumph of Open Source," Forbes notes this:

"It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future, but I suspect that tablets and browsers will be dominated by Android and WebKit, respectively. Yet because Android and WebKit are open source projects, there’s little danger that their growing popularity will lead to the dominance of one firm, with the resulting stagnation. Even if the market is dominated by a single platform, that market share will be shared among several companies that build products using that platform, who will compete with each other to produce enhancements to the underlying, shared code. And because firms won’t have to build new OSes or browsers from scratch, barriers to entry will be low."

All of this, of course was ballyhooed as the next chapter for Android too early. People far and wide predicted that Android tablets would immediately challenge Apple's iPad for market share, which isn't the case. But the Kindle isn't the iPad. It's its own breed of mobile hardware device, and Amazon is making a big bet on Android with new generation Kindles such as the Fire. 

Moreover, Amazon's business model is radically different from Apple's. Amazon can move Kindles at a loss on the hardware devices, should it choose to do so, in order to create a large audience interested in buying digital content. Not only is the Kindle Fire based on Android, but Amazon's new browser, Silk, is based on WebKit--a proven open source browsing engine.

There is no doubt, with these two bets, that Amazon is grasping the flexibility of open source platforms. And why shouldn't the company bet on an open source browser as well? Aren't Google Chrome and Firefox defining innovation in the overall browser space?

Not long ago, if you mentioned Amazon is a big player in the open source arena, you would have drawn many furrowed eyebrows. But with its big bets on Android and Silk, Amazon is just that. It's hard to bet agains the company's Kindle bets, and the latest ones stand on the shoulders of open source. 

John Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Even people who write about opensource are ignorant and think Android as open source project.

And based on the false assumption claim that Amazon is betting on Open source is more childish.

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