As you know, Android is a free open source operating system. However, the free Android OS is not exactly what ordinary users usually mean by it.

The developer of the Android platform is the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) business alliance, which, in addition to Google, which is considered by the common people to be the owner of Android, also includes 47 large world companies.

A truly free Android system is not the platform that comes with the vast majority of end products that come to market. This is just a so-called stack, which includes the main operating system, middleware and a set of some basic end-use applications. Only this part of the familiar eco-system of most Android devices is a free product, and all other add-ons that can often completely change the appearance and functionality of the platform, as a rule, are closed proprietary software, which is also distributed under commercial licenses.

Without going into technical and legal details, it is enough to note that, for example, the basic Google services, which are an integral part of almost any Android smartphone or tablet computer, no longer have anything to do with open source software and are distributed on commercial terms. The Play Market application store, Gmail or the Google Maps navigation service are all commercial products, for the right to install them on the device, the developer pays certain royalties to Google.

Many seasoned Android users who had experience flashing a device with a custom version of the system most likely faced the fact that after completing the main part of the procedure, it is still necessary to additionally install all Google services, since they do not belong to the main stack. For example, in the legendary CyanogenMod firmware, this is the same Gapps archive (Google Applications).

So there is a free and free Android OS from OHA and nowhere near that free and free Android OS from Google.

Since Android from OHA without Google services is a rather abstract thing, not very suitable for the release of ready-made consumer smartphones or tablets, the overwhelming majority of mobile developers are forced to pay Google for the right to use an extended version of the system with such popular services as an app store or a search service. …

This explains the active attempts to develop new mobile operating systems, such as Firefox OS, Ubuntu Phone or Tizen, because operators and equipment manufacturers have a demand for a truly free platform, the use of which would not make them dependent on some one corporation like Google.

Nevertheless, there is another way, although it is not available to everyone, but only to truly large companies. It consists in taking the free Android stack, abandoning commercial Google add-ons and building all the necessary services on this basis on their own. This path has been ordered for small device manufacturers, but there are individual market players who not only can go along it, but have already done it.

The main example of such a solution to the problem is Amazon’s strategy, which took the Android stack and built its own ecosystem of services around it, which has nothing to do with Google. As a result, a line of Kindle Fire tablet computers appeared, which, by and large, run all on the same Android OS, but without the usual Google services.

This means that Amazon’s Android does not have a Google Play Market, which means there is no TalkBack and other familiar screen readers and accessibility tools. But this does not mean that the Kindle Fire is, in principle, inaccessible to users with visual impairments.

Android accessibility is implemented at the level of a common stack, so nothing prevents you from taking advantage of the built-in functionality and building a new accessibility infrastructure, which is done in Kindle Fire devices, just to be named and it will not work exactly as on Android from Google.

In the next post, which is already more applied in nature, we will get acquainted with the accessibility tools available in Kindle Fire devices, and, thanks to the Voice Guide, we will bring the number of screen readers for Android OS to a number that will be the envy of many platforms for personal computers.

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