It turns out FireStarter isn’t the only app being disabled by the new 188.8.131.52 Fire TV and Fire TV Stick software update. FiredTV Launcher, another alternate home screen replacement app for the Fire TV, has also been blacklisted by Amazon and is now being automatically disabled. This is damning evidence that the reason behind Amazon disabling FireStarter has nothing to do with its unconventional use of internal ADB connections, and everything to do with forcing you to use the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick their way.
Alternate launchers, also known as home screen replacement apps, have long been a part of the Android experience. If you don’t like the default look and feel of your Android device’s home screen, you can install a new one to completely replace the one put in place by the device’s manufacturer. Despite the Fire TV’s operating system being built off of Android, the ability to use an alternate launcher on the device has always been disabled by Amazon from the beginning. However, that hasn’t stopped cleaver programmers, like FiredTV and FireStarter’s developers, from finding their own ways to force their launchers to work with the Fire TV. Apart from denying these alternate launchers a place in the official Fire TV appstore, due to “overriding the native user experience”, Amazon had otherwise ignored these apps. It now appears that Amazon is actively disabling these apps after they’ve been manually installed by customers via sideloading.
Hardware analysts have determined that Amazon generally does not make any money when selling the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick hardware. Instead, they rely on the sale of movies, shows, and apps, as well as advertisements in the user interface, to be a primary source of profit for the Fire TV hardware line. This is why it’s important for Amazon to keep customers on the Fire TV’s default interface, where they’re most likely to spend money while using the device. Using an alternate launcher on the Fire TV is akin to buying a movie ticket, but entering through the emergency exit so that you’re not tempted to spend any money at the concession stand, which incidentally is the primary way most theaters can stay in business. Sure, there’s nothing illegal about doing that, but if everyone did it, the theater would likely go out of business. In the same manner, if everyone used an alternate launcher on the Fire TV, it too would likely cease to exist.
It’s understandable that Amazon has started fighting back against apps that threaten their business model for the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. However, it doesn’t seem right to now release a mandatory software update that dictates which apps can and can’t be used, especially for a device that, for some, was purchased two years ago.