I wanted to link to this Ars Technica post on Google’s levers of control over the Android ecosystem by Ron Amadeo, mainly because it’s a really nice piece of reporting. He explains how Google has reduced the open source footprint of Android and migrated to closed source versions of many of the key applications and services that Android users expect. Google then uses bars Android handset makers from making non-approved Android devices in exchange for licensing these closed-source applications.
This answers the question of why there aren’t more Android forks floating around, and sheds an interesting light on the Kindle Fire:
This makes life extremely difficult for the only company brazen enough to sell an Android fork in the west: Amazon. Since the Kindle OS counts as an incompatible version of Android, no major OEM is allowed to produce the Kindle Fire for Amazon. So when Amazon goes shopping for a manufacturer for its next tablet, it has to immediately cross Acer, Asus, Dell, Foxconn, Fujitsu, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, NEC, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and ZTE off the list. Currently, Amazon contracts Kindle manufacturing out to Quanta Computer, a company primarily known for making laptops. Amazon probably doesn’t have many other choices.
I actually don’t think this is particularly evil, but I do think it gives lie to the claim that Android is really an open platform.