Leave it to the Android community to hack a new device. On Wednesday, an eager Android developer posted a video to YouTube, showing off the new — and still unreleased — version of Android, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, running on a Kindle Fire tablet.
It’s an odd mashup, to say the least. First of all, only developers have access to Ice Cream Sandwich at this point, as the first device to run the software — Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone — hasn’t yet been released. Second, although the Kindle Fire is indeed an Android-based tablet, you’d never know by looking at it. Amazon slapped a heavily modified version of the OS onto the Fire, eschewing Google’s multiple-home-screen scheme for a bookshelf and carousel metaphor.
Basically, the Fire is an ATINO (Android Tablet In Name Only) that lacks the defining visual cues familiar in most other Android tablets.
The developer of the hack says a number of crucial functions (namely, Wi-Fi, audio playback and the Fire’s accelerometer) aren’t yet working with the ICS test build. Still, he’s managed to get the touch-panel and hardware graphics acceleration up and running, an admirable feat for a device that’s only been on the market for a few weeks.
Android has appealed to the hacker community since its debut. As an open-source project, the underlying code for each Android build (save Android 3.0, aka Honeycomb) has been made available to developers shortly before each version launches. That’s led to a slew of developers creating their own modded versions of Android, including the increasingly popular CyanogenMod software.
Why put the OS on a foreign device? For the same reason Google adds all the bells and whistles, clever shortcuts and geeky functionality to its mobile platform: Because it can. Tweaking, modding hacking — it’s all part of the tinkerer mentality. And at $200, the Kindle Fire is a natural choice for a low-priced starter tablet to hack.
Expect more from the modders on the XDA developer forums in the next few weeks, especially after Ice Cream Sandwich is finally released widely.