Since they were announced yesterday, Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD tablets have been the focus of at least a bit of controversy. First, there was some confusion about whether or not the user will be able to opt or buy out of the lockscreen ads (which have been confirmed as mandatory), and now there may be a bit of backlash over Amazon’s choice for the default search engine in their Silk browser: Microsoft’s Bing.
While this has happened once before with the Verizon Fascinate, the Fire HD is going to be a bigger deal than the Fascinate, simply because it is already getting much more publicity and will likely sell many more units. Now, while it is completely acceptable within the Android license for Amazon to do this, it just seems a little odd. Unless specifically locked down, users should be able to change this setting, but I doubt that most casual users will notice the difference enough to change it.
The choice of Bing as a search engine probably isn’t terribly interesting news for most buyers, aside from the fact that it likely helped subsidize the cost of the tablets, but I do think that it may pose at least a slight problem for Google. Sure, the Kindle Fire is based on Android 4.0, but Amazon has removed more and more of Google’s own services since the first Fire.
Google’s goal with Android was to have a platform that anyone can install on their devices, but ultimately points users to Google services and ads. With the new Fire HD, Amazon seems to have eliminated almost all Google-related bits of the OS. They took the core Android framework, but replaced the Play Store, search engine, browser, and content services with their own, basically using Google’s own core OS to create a tablet that makes money for Google’s competitors and not Google itself. While I do like the fact that Android is open enough that this kind of customization is possible, I wonder if Google won’t try to do something about it if the Kindle Fire HD ends up dominating the Android tablet market.