The Kindle Fire and the Triumph of Open Source

Timothy B. Lee | Forbes | September 28, 2011

Today’s big tech news is the release of a new generation of Amazon Kindles. Of particular interest is the Kindle Fire, a $199, 7-inch color touchscreen tablet based on Android. It seems destined to become the most credible competitor to the iPad.

One point I haven’t seen anyone make about this is the importance of open source software to the evolution of the tablet computing market. Google decided to make Android an open-source operating system, which meant that third parties could take the code, tweak it for their own needs, and sell competing Android-based products. That’s what Barnes and Noble did last year with the Nook Color, and it’s what Amazon did to create the Kindle Fire.

Obviously, the fact that Android was available has made it much easier for Barnes and Noble and Amazon—as well as traditional consumer electronics firms like Samsung and Motorola—to enter the market. But it also has important implications for the long-term future of competition in the tablet market...