If you thought it was strange that few, if any, TV brands sold both an Android TV and a Fire TV version of a TV, there now seems to be an answer. Apparently, Google has looked to ensure TV companies it works with on Android TV, don’t also do busy with Amazon and Fire TV.
Google and Amazon have not had the best relationship over the years, and this latest suggestion further highlights one of the reasons why Amazon might take issue with the search giant. At one point, and besides Amazon refusing to sell Google products on its retail site, YouTube was unavailable on Fire TV devices, while Prime Video remained unavailable on Android TV products. Although many competitors compete with each other every day, the lack of support for each other’s products and services has always gone much deeper than that.
However, the two did come to some form of agreement in 2019 with both announcing support for each other’s services.
Now, a new report from Protocol, citing “multiple sources” explains that Google has actively forbidden its Android TV partners from doing business with Amazon on TV products. According to the information, Google has this factored into the Android TV licensing agreement, and apparently looks to enforce the rule through fear of the third-party companies losing access to Google apps, including the Play Store.
Google’s open, but closed, approach to devices
Technically, the report points out that the terms of the agreement refer to third-party companies doing business with forked versions of Android. However, it is convenient (for Google) that this also happens to include not just a TV platform competitor, but also a company Google has had major disagreements with in the past.
Google also makes use of a similar policy with Android mobile, but it was previously unclear that the the same terms were in use with Android TV. Especially considering TV companies do often make different versions of products to suit different buyers. In fact, the report explains that the issue goes well beyond Android TV, with any company signing up to the mobile version of the agreement also prohibited from building Fire TV devices.
While it makes sense that Google would want to harmonize the experience across devices that access the Google Play Store, it is clear that a Fire TV device would not affect that situation or goal. In this sense, it is just a way for the company to stop the companies it works with doing business with a major competitor.
Worst still is how this reduces the number of options available to the general consumer. Not to mention that unless Google changes this rule, then it seems unlikely that some consumers will ever be able to buy a TV product from the brand they want, running on the platform they want.
This last point is not all that surprising as Google has never really seemed to care about servicing Android TV consumers directly, instead appearing to be more content on acquiring users through deals with third-party companies. This is in contrast to both Amazon and Roku who appear far more focused on a consumer-first experience with their first-party products, running first-party software.
However, Google may in fact be in a process of changing its Android TV direct-to-consumer relationship, considering the recent rumors suggesting a Chromecast with Android TV is on the way.