No Android forks here

No Android forks here

Summary: Recent headlines might lead you to believe that Google's mobile, open-source operating system Android is being forked by Amazon and Baidu. It's not.


Yes, Android has a forking problem. Google forked its mobile, open-source operating system into two versions: Android 2.x for smartphones and Android 3.x for tablets earlier this year. It also doesn't help Android any that there are so many different supported versions out in the market. But, what Amazon and Baidu are doing with their forthcoming tablets has nothing to do with forking Android.

Let's take a closer look at these so-called "forks" shall we? From what we know of the forthcoming Android Kindle tablet, it's going to be running Android. I expect it to be running Android 3.x Honeycomb, but since the initial model will be a 7" display tablet it could run say Android 2.3.3 or 2.3.4.

Let me underline that, the Amazon Kindle, despite what you may read elsewhere, is going to be running Android. The interface, however, will be different from the ones we currently see on other Android smartphones and tablets. Specifically, it's going to be designed to work well with Amazon's Web site and Amazon-branded applications.

That doesn't make it a fork. Indeed, that's no more a "fork" of Android than using KDE 4.x, GNOME 3, or Unity as your desktop GUI forks Linux. You're simply choosing to use a different desktop. Under the surface, it's still Linux.

Perhaps an even better, and more accurate, comparison of what Amazon will be doing is how Fedora defaults to GNOME 3, openSUSE to KDE 4, and Ubuntu to Unity for their desktops. Yes, they look completely different to a layman, but under the surface, which is where it counts in operating systems, they're look and act the same.

Look at this way: There's no question that a Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a great luxury car and, most people would say that a Toyota Corolla is a fine economy car.  Are they the same? No, but they both run on gas, have four-wheels, can you get from home to the office, etc., etc. So, are they both examples of cars? Yes, yes they are. It's the same with these new Android tablets.

Look at the new Baidu tablet. Its interface won't look like the Kindle tablet, a Galaxy Tab 10.1, or my Barnes & Nobles Nook Color, but under the fancy paint job and in the hand it's just another Android tablet.

In the case of Amazon, it's more than just a look though. Amazon is also going to be directing you to its own app. store instead of Google's default Android App Market and will include some of its own applications. But, once more there's nothing new here. My Verizon Droid 2 phone, for example, came with Verizon and Motorola specific applications--most of which I might add I could live without--but simply having customized apps doesn't turn the Android 2.3.3 it's running into an Android fork.

So, yes, there are too many versions of Android running around. But, neither Amazon nor Baidu are forking Android. They're just customizing its front-end and adding some goodies to make it more attractive to their customers. There's nothing remotely new about that. It's just business as usual.

That said, if Amazon or Baidu make a really pretty interface with lots of neat toys and-this is the important one would-be tablet billionaires-sell it for an affordable price well below that of the Apple iPad, then they'll have a best-selling tablet on their hands regardless of operating system details.

Related Stories:

Android: Another fork in the code by Baidu

Details leak about Amazon Kindle Tablet

Linus Torvalds on Android, the Linux fork

Google has forked Android

Android's Biggest Worry: Fragmentation

Topics: Android, Amazon, Google, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • I thought it was a fork

    I swear it is using a pre-2.2 Android version?
    • RE: No Android forks here


      That is everything I have seen reported as well.
    • RE: No Android forks here

      @homeblend It is! They just don't want you to know or think about it! Google depends on confused & non-thinking customers to make bad decisions with their money! That's the only way they can sell their products!
      • RE: No Android forks here


        Cool story bro. Kind of like Win 95 and MS, yeah?
  • Better Analogy...

    I think a better analogy than the one you presented, is stating that Amazon's interface running on top of Android is no more a fork than HTC's Sense or Motorola's Blur.
    • RE: No Android forks here

      Didn't Google say they would not provide the Honeycomb source to anyone who wouldn't sign up to their non-ragmentaion clauses. In addition this wouldalso include having all the normal Android preconditions such as Market Place access, etc.
      If this is the case then I doubt the Amazon tablet will have Honeycomb as this will be a Amazon App Store access only device (ie. no Google stuff).
      • RE: No Android forks here

        @global.philosopher <br><br>Same goes with baidu too.
    • RE: No Android forks here

      @jschisurf If an Android "tablet" is NOT using HoneyComb, then it's NOT an Android tablet, it's something else! HoneyComb is the Android OS for tablets. Froyo 2.2 is for phones. Amazon using it for their own purposes means they customizing it for their own use. 2.2 SUCKS by the way!
  • RE: No Android forks here

    Don't understand the whole point of this article... A car has four wheels and runs on gas???

    If its not 'certified' by Google, I think its better to call it Linux, than Android. Android is a legal nightmare, its not wise to think that Amazon will jump into such a thing without sorting the legal issues.
    • RE: No Android forks here


      lol How is it a legal nightmare? Many of the argued points in the GPLv2 vs v3 debate are rather moot. Even with many legal eyeballs pouring over their focus on every bulletpoint someone brought to the discussion, there's no clear legal risk.

      The handful of concerns that have been mentioned are no better than threats from SCO- FUD, and rather boring. Barbara Hudson's most recent post with regards to this puts it rather nicely (lmgtfy?).
      • RE: No Android forks here

        @CommonOddity He is referring to the vendors who have pending litigation but none of these lawsuits beyond the Oracle Java version are actually on Android. Most are Hardware or Skin Related.

        As for the GPL, that is why it isn't a success on the desktops as many commercial software vendors do not like the GPL and will not develop for Linux.

        Either way, Owlnet is just an Apple Fanboy with Aqua Colored Glasses and a front row view of Jobs / Cooks Arse.
      • Legal nightmares called Microsoft and Apple

        @CommonOddity Peter P is right ... but I think he forgot to mention the licensing agreements that Microsoft is offering to Android developers in lieu of a subpoena over patent infringement.

        And then there's Apple and its simmering battle with HTC over patent infringement related to various gestures and capabilities, which is really just a thinly-veiled, indirect attack on Android ... probably as a test to see how the courts decide. If Apple wins (and it appears likely it will, since it does have legal patents on the designs in question) then any manufacturer that uses Android with those offending technologies is likely to find itself in Apple's crosshairs.
      • RE: No Android forks here

        @Peter P

        1. The lawsuit will be lost by Oracle. No matter how much they throw at Google, their case is not strong enough (I've a friend that specializes in patent law- wish I could steal his voice for 5 minutes :) )
        2. GPL != Everything built on top of it has to be GPL. e.g. Games, applications, etc. You're telling me commercial software doesn't exist on Linux? Hell, I've been playing the crap out of HoN for a while now.

        3. Aye, a lot of the suits are over petty hw/skin stuff like you mentioned. The most recent stunts with Apple have been supremely amusing. I like how they got caught with some 20-odd counts of tampering with evidence, in a European court. Boned? Completely.


        The licensing agreements that MS brings forth are more 'peace signatures'- but cannot hold any clause that would further inflict, in the case of termination, harm as a result of it. Whether they would pursue separate matters (e.g. patent war over the way that you can hold the phone while eating sushi or some stupid thing) is entirely up to MS.

        Apple is starting to lose grip, and fast. They are hoping one of the suits they started will pay off, but not likely. HTC is taking the hits, but they're definitely not out of the race.

        The issue at hand is one that can be easily fixed. HTC has enough innovation to sidestep the problem, even if they do lose.

        You wish to quote interesting developments on the legal battlefield? Google just armed itself with a ton of patents. Fangs sharpened, I'm quite sure they'll definitely be able to bite back should someone start trouble :)

        P.s. At the risk of sounding like a fanboi (cuz am prow): Notice how just a short time before Googorolla, they said they would rise up to the defense of their Android kin? I think they're full of ire and piss at this point. Watch the flying rocks.
    • RE: No Android forks here

      I agree that the term Android is refers to Linux Mobile + Google Services but really it is the layer that sits on top of Linux Mobile and is why Google do not have to release the software under GPL conditions. Therefor the problem of what Amazon and Baidu is doing is not forking Android or forking Linux Mobile but creating different layers on top of Linux Mobile similar to Red Hat Linux, Suse Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Debian Linux, etc.
      When this "forking" begins I would guess that all Android apps will run on Amazon, Baidu and Android (except for the normal fragmentation issues) but as time goes by and as Amazon and Baidu create new API's and other middle layer replacements this may change and the issue of fragmentation will escalate.
      • RE: No Android forks here


        Actually, the fragmentation API that Google has been working on is very promising. I'm thinking by Q2 next year, the issue will be old news. The most interesting part about it is the scaling... Very impressive work.
    • RE: No Android forks here


      I agree: bad analogy. The "they're both cars" analogy could be used to say that an Android tablet and a Windows Server and a MacBook Air are all the same because they both have silicon-based chips and use electricity. Heck, my toaster would probably qualify under those terms.

      A better car analogy would be that the Honda Accord and Acura TSX share the same basic unibody structure, powertrain and suspension systems. They just get (slightly) different sheetmetal and interiors to be more aesthetically pleasing in the Acura.

      Or it's the same as the Chevrolet Suburban and the Cadillac Escalade EXT -- they both have the same frame, suspension, powertrains, basic body structure ... but it's the sheetmetal and interior upgrades that distinguish the two from each other, with the Cadillac obviously featuring more opulent accoutrements.
    • RE: No Android forks here

      Anything can be presented as a legal nightmare if enough (big) companies are willing to put a lot of money on the table to sue. And this legal nightmare is not exclusive to Android and looks more related to the patent system.
      But it is not bad practice to wait for the verdicts.
  • RE: No Android forks here

    "but under the surface, which is where it counts in operating systems, they?re look and act the same"

    We are talking consumer systems here. The failure of Linux to get a measurable market share in consumer desktop is that fragmentation of distros and UI is not recognized as forking the system. You may claim this is not a fork because there is the same kernel in there somewhere, but this does little to please the user who prefers a single polished experience to a dozen half-baked options.
    Of course, Amazon fork will not kill Android, but will fragment it further.
    • RE: No Android forks here

      "The failure of Linux to get a measurable market share in consumer desktop is that fragmentation of distros and UI is not recognized as forking the system."
      This sentence is factually inaccurate and grammatically flawed.
      • RE: No Android forks here

        @kirovs@... That's the beauty of Linux. Most people don't even KNOW that they are running it in their own home on the most used desktop they probably have, their cable tv box or even their new wifi equipped television. They're also probably running it in their home wifi router and of course, on their Android phone.