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Amazon preps devs for a Fire OS move to Android 5.0 Lollipop

It's good news for Android developers but even so, by the time Fire HD tablets and the Fire Phone run Android 5.0, Google will likely have Android M available.

The forked version of Android that Amazon's mobile devices use is about to get an upgrade.

The company launched a preview edition of Fire OS 5.0 on Friday that is built upon Android 5.0 software, also known as Lollipop. To help developers prepare for the change, Amazon is offering $50 off up to two Fire HD 7 tablets to programmers.

Based on Amazon's blog post with the news, the company plans to introduce the Fire OS 5.0 platform before year-end:

"To ensure your app is available to millions of customers on the next generation of Amazon devices, you can now participate in the Fire OS 5 Developer Preview. As an Amazon Developer, we're offering you early access to Fire OS 5. You can now see your app running on a Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tablet, and identify any app compatibility issues well in advance of our new Fire OS launch later this year."

Amazon's phone and tablets currently use a modified sub-version of Android 4.4, which Google replaced with Android 5.0 last year.

That means developers who have created Android apps for newer devices running Lollipop might not have all of the programming tools and APIs available to them to get those same apps on Kindle Fire tablets and the Fire Phone.

To assist in finding compatibility issues for apps, Amazon has also updated its testing tools: Developers can drag and drop their Android app into Amazon's App Testing Service and receive results in 90 seconds. The service will test for both Fire OS 5 and Android 5.0 compatibility.

While Android 5.0 is used as the underlying base for Fire OS 5, don't expect Google's own apps or services to be supported. Fire OS is built from the open-source version of Android -- or Android Open Source Project -- which doesn't include licensing rights for Gmail, Google Drive, and other Google apps that are core to the Google Android experience.

This effort is a bit of catch up for Amazon, given that Google made Android 5.0 available last year. The company also introduced Android M last month, so by the time Amazon's Fire OS gains compatibility with Lollipop, it will again be a full Android release behind.