Amazon Opens Developer Preview For Fire OS 5

Much like Apple and Google are with iOS 9 and Android M, Amazon is now offering developers the opportunity to participate in a developer preview of Fire OS 5. Fire OS is, of course, Amazon's platform for the company's Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick. 

The new platform from Amazon is based on Android 5.0 Lollipop. The company says the update should maintain a greater degree of compatibility with existing apps than prior versions. In other words, developers won't have as much work to do to prepare their apps for Fire OS. Amazon is promising "no additional engineering effort" required. 

Fire OS is a version of Android with Google Play Services stripped out. That means no Gmail, no Google Maps, nor the Google Play Store or any other Google-made apps. Some call Fire OS a "forked" variant of Android. It has a unique user interface that's different from the core Android platform. That doesn't mean Android apps are incompatible with Fire OS. Quite the opposite. 

The Amazon Appstore appears not only on Amazon's own hardware, but on Android handsets from a variety of makers carriers. Heck, it's even available to BlackBerry 10 smartphones. About a year ago Amazon claimed to offer 175,000 apps in the Amazon Appstore. It hasn't updated that number in recent memory. Either way you look at it, there are plenty of apps in there. 

Want to get your app in the Amazon Appstore? Sign up for the preview to get started. Amazon says testing in the prevew in environment is vital to ensure apps are compatible with the next generation of Amazon devices. Developers will be able to test how their apps run on a Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tablet to identify problems ahead of Fire OS 5's commercial launch later this year. 

The Fire OS 5 Developer Preview includes Amazon Testing Service, a free tool that checks app compatibility not only with Fire OS, but with Android 5.0, too. Amazon says the ATS has been updated based on developer feedback and is now faster and simpler to use. For example, developers can simply drag-and-drop their Android APK into the ATS in the Amazon Developer Portal homepage. Amazon can spit out results in as little as 90 seconds.

Not sure how to use ATS? Amazon has videos and other documentation on hand for first-timers. You can sign up right here.

If you're curious to know of Fire OS is worth the effort, here are a few points to consider. Amazon's Fire Phone may have been a total flop, but its tablets are not. Amazon's Fire tablets rank highly with U.S. consumers. Amazon clearly suggested new hardware is in store. The online retail giant generally debuts a new line of tablets each fall. These are highly gifted during the holiday season. Considering Amazon says no engineering effort is required to reach Fire OS comaptbility, it can't hurt to take a look at the preview.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.