Amazon’s Vega OS: A Linux-based alternative to Android for its devices

Amazon is reportedly working on a new operating system called Vega, which will replace the Android-based Fire OS on its smart home devices, such as Fire TV, Echo Show, and Fire tablets. The new OS is based on Linux and uses React Native, a popular JavaScript framework, for app development. According to a report by Lowpass, Amazon has been working on Vega since at least 2019 and is now focusing on creating an SDK and reaching out to developers.

One of the main reasons for Amazon to develop its own OS is to have more control over the user experience and the deployment of its services and advertising. Fire OS, which is a fork of Android, relies on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which is often outdated and cumbersome to maintain. For instance, the Fire Max 11, a 2023 device, runs on Fire OS 8, which is based on Android 11, released in 2020. Fire TVs sold in 2023 are based on Android 9, from 2018.

Amazon’s Vega OS: A Linux-based alternative to Android for its devices
Amazon’s Vega OS: A Linux-based alternative to Android for its devices

By using a Linux-based OS, Amazon can avoid the technical debt and complexity of AOSP and create a more streamlined and web-friendly platform. Vega also uses React Native, which is a framework that allows developers to create cross-platform apps using JavaScript and native UI components. This could make it easier for developers to port their existing apps to Vega or create new ones for Amazon’s devices.

When will Vega launch?

According to Lowpass, Vega could start shipping on Fire TV devices as early as next year. From there, the OS could expand to other Amazon products, such as Echo smart displays, Fire tablets, and even in-car entertainment systems. Amazon has not officially confirmed the existence of Vega or its launch date, but some clues have been found in job listings, forum posts, and LinkedIn profiles of Amazon employees.

For example, one job listing for a Senior Software Development Engineer at Amazon states that the candidate will “work on a new operating system that will power the next generation of Amazon devices.” Another job listing for a Senior Technical Program Manager mentions that the candidate will “drive the development and launch of a new operating system for Amazon devices.” A forum post by a user claiming to be an Amazon employee also hints at Vega, saying that “we are working on something big that will change the way you use your Fire TV.”

What are the implications of Vega?

Vega could have significant implications for Amazon’s relationship with Google and the Android ecosystem. Google has previously tried to enforce a clause in its contracts with device makers that use its Play Store and Google services, which prohibits them from using a fork of Android, like Fire OS, on other devices. Amazon and Google have reached a deal that allows Fire TV manufacturers like TCL to continue making TVs with both Android TV and Fire TV systems, but Google’s official stance remains the same.

By switching to Vega, Amazon could avoid the need to negotiate with Google or comply with its terms. It could also gain more independence and flexibility in designing its own user interface, app store, and services. However, Vega could also face some challenges, such as compatibility issues, developer adoption, and user acceptance. Amazon will have to convince developers and users that Vega is a better alternative to Android and that it offers more benefits and features.

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