Last week, it was reported by Janko Roettgers in his Lowpass newsletter that Amazon is developing its own operating system to replace Android on its Fire TV devices and eventually expand to other products, including the company’s smart displays. The report indicated that Amazon’s software, which is codenamed Vega, could make an appearance on Fire TV streaming hardware as early as next year.
However, as discovered by Zatz Not Funny, the new homegrown OS is already being used on the latest Echo Show 5. It displays as “OS 1.1,” which is a clear indication of a brand-new platform. In terms of appearance and user experience, the Vega OS looks very similar to the Fire OS that it replaces. According to Roettgers’ sources and Amazon’s job postings, the Linux-based OS is in a “fairly advanced” stage of development. Amazon has also reportedly informed certain partners about the impending shift away from Android, which has been the foundation of its forked Fire OS software.
By releasing its own operating system, Amazon would essentially be starting over. This means that developers of popular streaming apps would have to create new versions specifically for this new platform. The Fire TV has enough popularity to compel developers to comply, as Amazon announced in March that it had sold over 200 million Fire TV devices globally.
Having complete control over its OS from top to bottom would provide Amazon with the advantage of squeezing more advertising revenue from its Fire TV, smart displays, and other products. It would also allow the company to keep the software current at its own pace, while Fire OS and many Android-powered TV streamers are often based on older versions of Google’s platform. Some Fire TV owners have voiced concerns about Amazon’s custom OS potentially eliminating power user features like sideloading.
During its fall hardware event, Amazon showcased new Fire TV OS features, including more nuanced, conversational voice search powered by AI, and a “continue watching” row that aggregates content from various streaming services. The company also expanded its Ambient Experience to more devices, which can display widgets and other glanceable information when Fire TV streaming products are idle.
As reported in Roettgers’ newsletter and Zatz Not Funny, the development of Amazon’s Vega OS represents a significant shift for the company, moving away from Android as the foundation for its operating system. While the impact of this change may have repercussions for developers and consumers, Amazon’s popular Fire TV devices may provide the leverage needed to make the transition successful.
The transition to Vega OS could mean a potential shift in the app ecosystem for Fire TV devices. Previous platforms have relied on a version of the Android operating system and a custom launcher, which allowed users to install apps from the Amazon Appstore and sideload their own applications.
Amazon has remained tight-lipped about the specifics of its Vega OS, but reports from industry insiders suggest that the new operating system is built on Linux and may have the capability to run Android applications. However, streaming apps and other third-party developers may be required to develop or update their apps specifically for the new platform, which could create friction in the short term.
The move to a proprietary OS provides Amazon with greater control over the capabilities and features of its products. It also presents an opportunity for the company to enhance its advertising and content delivery capabilities. However, it may also limit the flexibility and choices available to consumers and developers.
As Amazon continues to expand its ecosystem of devices, including smart displays, it is clear that the company sees an opportunity to create a more cohesive and integrated software experience. By developing its own operating system, Amazon is seeking to differentiate its products in a crowded market and deliver unique features and capabilities to its customers.
However, the transition to a new operating system poses challenges and risks, particularly for developers and consumers who have invested in the existing Fire TV platform. It remains to be seen how Amazon will navigate this transition and mitigate any potential disruptions that may arise during the rollout of the Vega OS.