- The EU competition commissioner says that Google froze Amazon out of the smartphone market.
- According to EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Amazon tried to license its version of Android, FireOS, in 2012 and 2013, but Google's licensing agreements made it unsuccessful.
- Amazon launched the Fire Phone in 2014, which was made by Amazon and was a flop.
One curious detail from the European Commission's announcement of a $5 billion fine against Google involves another tech giant: Amazon.
As an example of how Google's Android licensing practices have frozen out other companies, the EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said that Amazon tried to break into the smartphone market in 2012 and 2013 with its FireOS operating system, a highly modified version of Android.
"This was not just a remote possibility from theory books. In 2012 and 2013, Amazon tried to license to device manufacturers its Android fork, called FireOS. It wanted to cooperate with manufacturers to increase its chances of commercial success," Vestager said.
"And manufacturers were interested. But due to Google's restrictions, manufacturers could not launch FireOS on even a single device. They would have lost the right to sell any Android phone with key Google apps. Nowadays very few devices run with FireOS, namely those manufactured by Amazon themselves," she continued.
Currently, FireOS is the software that powers Amazon's Fire Tablets, Fire TV streaming boxes, and Echo line of devices. It's a highly modified version of Android, often called a "fork," and it has a custom user interface. FireOS is on its fifth major version.
But one device that FireOS is not currently found on is a smartphone. Shortly after Amazon tried to license FireOS, according to Vestager's timeline, it announced the Fire Phone, a high-end iPhone competitor running FireOS. It didn't sell well, and Amazon eventually took a $170 million loss on unsold units.
"Some of these things take iterations," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained to Business Insider in late 2014.
"With the phone, I'd ask you to stay tuned," he continued.
Maybe Amazon would have had more luck iterating if other companies were also making Fire Phones. An Amazon representative didn't return a request for comment on Vestager's story.
Do you know which manufacturers wanted to license FireOS? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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