Have you ever wondered why Amazon’s Fire TV streaming devices don’t work on most smart TVs and cable set-top boxes globally? Well, Google is the one to blame for it. The search giant has long prevented smartphone manufacturers from releasing devices with forked versions of Android.
In light of this, the company is now placing the same restriction on its Android TV partners, barring them from producing devices using forked versions of Android such as Amazon’s Fire TV operating system.
According to Google’s licensing terms for Android, “Any consumer electronics manufacturer that licenses Google’s Android TV operating system for its smart TVs isn’t allowed to build any devices that use forked Android versions.” And Amazon’s Fire TV OS is indeed a fork of Android.
If a company fails to adhere to these terms, Google can reportedly revoke the Android licenses from that particular manufacturer and it would no longer be able to use the Play Store and Google’s apps on any of its devices, including phones and tablets.
Going against Google’s strict policies appears to be a disastrous move for TV manufacturers who also uses Android as a mobile operating system, like Samsung and LG.
Apparently, this really shouldn’t come as a big revelation since the search giant has had this condition in the Android Compatibility Commitment for quite a long time, but it’s interesting to see that it also relates to Android TV manufacturers.
“They cannot do Android TV and Fire TV simultaneously,” an anonymous senior employee of a major TV manufacturer said regarding the subject.
Consumer electronics manufacturers that have agreed to the terms of the Android Compatibility Commitment for their mobile devices are effectively not allowed to make TVs running on forked Android versions like Fire TV.
“Unlike other partnership agreements, it is completely unique type of contract for the TV industry,” he added.
Android Compatibility Commitment Taking Out Living Room Competition
At the center of Google’s attempts to kneecapped Amazon’s smart TV dream is the Android Compatibility Commitment – a confidential set of policies formerly known as the Anti-Fragmentation Agreement – manufacturers of Android devices must run the Google-approved version of Android in order to get access to Google’s play store and other services.
That means if Android TV makers want to use the Play Store and Google services on their TVs, they simply can’t make any devices with other operating systems like Fire TV. Recent reports from Protocol suggests that this allowed Google to build a huge firewall against its smart home rival Amazon.
“Amazon has sold millions of Fire TV streaming devices in recent years, but its efforts to expand the Fire TV platform to smart TVs and cable set-top boxes have been slow-going,” the report added.
However, the current landscape of smart TVs indicates that both Amazon and Google are facing a tough battle against Roku TVs, powered by the Roku OS.
According to a Strategy Analytics report, Roku-based devices were the most sold streaming platforms in Q1 2019 with more than 30% of US sales, followed by Amazon’s Fire TV OS at 12% and Google’s Android TV at 9%.