In a piece titled “How Amazon Is Making A Sucker Out Of Google” writer Mike Elgan suggests that Amazon is taking advantage of Google’s open policy towards Android and in the process could be destroying the Android ecosystem. Google provides Android for free as open source, which allows developers like Amazon to take Google’s work and make it their own. Giving something like Android away seems silly, but I think Google believes users will ultimately find the “Google Experience” more appealing.
The Google Experience is an entire package that includes not only Android but also Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Google+, the Android Market and more. In order for hardware companies to make a device that has Google branding they have to pay a license fee for Google’s apps like Gmail and the Android Market even though Android itself is free. Google’s detractors often point out that Android is not really “open” or “free” when you take into account the licensing fees for the “Google Experience.”
If you own an Amazon Kindle Fire you know there is no sign of Google anywhere on the device. Google’s logo is not on the back of the device and none of the Google apps are on the device. Does it matter that the Kindle Fire does not have the Google Experience? For most people, probably not, but consider this experiment.
Try to find the Calendar app on the Kindle Fire. You will not find one. Unlike every smartphone and tablet on the market, you can not use the Kindle Fire to keep track of appointments. Worse, while there are several third party developers who make calendar apps for Android, none that I have tried work on the Fire because it does not have the Android calendar database that these apps expect to be on the device. It seems as though in order for Fire owners to have a calendar app a developer will have to write one explicitly for the Fire.
People such as myself who have their personal data in the Google cloud want to be able to access that data on their mobile devices. If those people want the Google Experience, the Kindle Fire is not for them. While many will say that the Google Experience does not matter, I think many of Google’s apps make mobile devices better. People are quickly installing Google’s Gmail, Google+, and Search apps on the iPhone and iPad for a reason.
Mike Elgan and others likely think Google is crazy to allow other large companies like Amazon to take advantage of their work. Google appears to be confident that what they provide is more than just an operating system. Everyone likes buying things, but at some point in time they also like to get things done, and there are obstacles for getting things done with the Kindle Fire.