Google can apparently revoke the software licenses from Android TV makers if they also make devices running certain forked versions of its operating system, including Amazon Fire TV, according to a new report from Protocol. If they do, Google’s licensing terms for Android reportedly dictate that those TV makers would no longer be able to run the Play Store and Google apps on any devices they make, including phones and tablets.
The policies, which fall under the Android Compatibility Commitment, appear to spell out that devices that want access to the Play Store must run a version of Android that’s compatible with the Google-approved version of Android. That means if TV makers want to have the Play Store on their TVs, they can’t make TVs with other operating systems — like, for example, Amazon’s competing Fire TV. Protocol reports that this allowed Google to bar some of its partners from also working with its smart home rival Amazon.
Going against Google’s strict licensing terms could be potentially disastrous for TV makers who also make smartphones that run Android, like LG or Samsung. That’s because the terms of the Android Compatibility Commitment also mean that if a TV maker opted to use Fire TV on its TVs, it wouldn’t be able to put the Play Store or Google apps on its phones, either. That would likely make those phones significantly less popular with users.
Google did not specifically respond to a question from The Verge about whether it barred TV manufacturers from offering both Android TV and Amazon Fire TV in their product lines. The company did say it puts Android TV devices that offer Google’s services and the Play Store through security review and compatibility testing to protect user data privacy and security. The company also argued that it tries to provide consistent and secure software experiences with vetted versions of Android, and that apps may not work like users expect on an Android device that’s hasn’t been run through the company’s compatibility testing process.
However, it should be noted that both Google and Amazon are facing an uphill battle against Roku in TV OS adoption. Over 30 percent of all new TV streaming devices sold in the US in the first quarter of last year ran Roku software, according to a Strategy Analytics report published last June. Amazon’s Fire TV accounted for 12 percent of devices sold, while Android TV counted for only 9 percent.
Note that those numbers include the sales of both streaming boxes and TVs running Roku’s, Amazon’s, or Google’s software. But they still show that even though Google may be keeping Amazon from powering more smart TVs, both of the tech giants still have a long way to go to overtake Roku.