ReadWriteWeb has an interesting article looking in some detail at exactly how Amazon has changed Android to form the basis of the Kindle Fire. I had been curious as to the nature of the changes, and this piece lays them out clearly as well as the reasoning behind them.
The major change Amazon made was stripping a lot of stuff out of the operating system, the same way it stripped down the hardware. In fact, stripping down the hardware—leaving out things like the camera, accelerometer, or location services—is the major reason for what it pulled out of Android. Without the hardware, it doesn’t need the capabilities built into the operating system for using it.
This is also why Amazon left out access to the Android Market and other third-party app stores in favor of its own uniquely Fire-ized app sotre—apps that rely on access to camera, accelerometer, or location services have to be rewritten to pull those requirements out or they won’t work properly with the tablet.
One app that is one of our favorites is NHL Game Center 2011-12. It is a dynamic app that can show in (almost) real-time what is happening on the ice of an NHL game. We downloaded it through Getjar in hopes of checking scores and the download process was smooth. Yet, the thing with NHL Game Center is that it requests location services after registering what the users favorite team is. A message pops up along the lines of, "NHL Game Center could not find the location of the user, please turn on location in the settings" and promptly closes. There is no way around it. This severely curtails the type of apps that Amazon will allow to be used with the Fire.
This also means that, though users can easily root the device and install their own versions of Android on it, what they can do with it once they’ve done that may be rather limited.
Still, if you’re willing to work with these limitations and want the tablet for what it can do rather than what it can’t, the $200 price for the tablet seems like a winner.