The question of whether Amazon can or will block sideloading apps, specifically Kodi, on the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick comes up often. The recent removal of Kodi from the Amazon appstore has stirred up this concern more than ever. The short answer is yes, Amazon can technically block sideloading with a software update, but in my opinion, it is so extremely unlikely to happen, that you shouldn’t worry about it one bit. Read on for a more detailed explanation of why that’s the case.
Will Amazon block sideloading on the Fire TV or Fire TV STick?
Simply put, Amazon will not block sideloading on the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick because sideloading is the only way for developers to test their apps on Fire TV devices. Sideloading is currently the only way to test apps on ANY Android device for that matter. Remember, Amazon provides their own official instructions on how to sideload apps onto Fire TV devices. Sideloading isn’t a hack or exploit. It’s a standard feature of Android. There is absolutely zero indication that Amazon is even considering the option to block sideloading. It’s actually the opposite because they recently made sideloading easier with the 18.104.22.168 update by adding the ability to sideload over USB, in addition to the existing method of sideloading over a network connection.
Okay, but CAN Amazon block sideloading on the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick?
Yes, with software updates, Amazon can completely change any aspect of the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, including the removal of sideloading. If Amazon removed sideloading, they would have to adopt Apple’s iOS approach for app development, which requires developers to register their devices for development with a proprietary system that controls which apps can and can’t be installed on the device. There are zero Android devices which use this approach. If Amazon implemented such a system, it would instantly make their devices the hardest Android devices to develop for, which in turn, would surely kill their third-party app ecosystem. Stopping a small portion of their customers from installing a few rogue apps is not worth crippling their app library.
What about Kodi? Can just Kodi be blocked?
Yes, Amazon can push software updates that block specific apps or specific app functionality, but they never have. Back when the Fire TV launched in the UK, there was a Fire TV software update that broke Kodi, but this was due to a bug and not Amazon deliberatly blocking the app. Amazon quickly pushed out an update the same day which fixed the issue and restored compatibility with Kodi. It’s not easy to permanently block a single app without inadvertently breaking other apps. If Amazon were to block Kodi, the Fire TV community would likely find a workaround which would then spawn a cat and mouse game of Amazon blocking the workaround and the community responding, and so on and so forth.
Does Amazon have a reason to block Kodi?
This is the most difficult question to answer because one could argue that the existence of Kodi on the Fire TV makes Amazon lose money. When the Fire TV was released, Amazon was selling it at cost, which really translates into selling it at a loss when you factor in the money spent to bring it to market. This means that if you buy the Fire TV, are not an Amazon Prime member, and never ever spend a penny on apps or content, then Amazon has lost money by selling you the device. They are not in the business to profit from hardware sales. If they were, the Fire TV would have been $179-$199 at launch, similar to the comparable Nvidia Shield box that was just released. They want you to be a part of their ecosystem of products, and the cheap hardware is just a perk to keep you happy and help you better be part of their ecosystem (i.e., buy stuff from Amazon). Kodi is the top offender of apps that strip away Amazon’s ecosystem and just use the device as a blind platform.
I want to make it clear that I’m not saying Kodi users are bad in any way. It’s quite the opposite. I think they’re the smartest Fire TV users because they’ve found a loophole in the system. An analogy is someone accepting a free shoebox full of stuff because they just want to use the shoebox to store their own stuff in. Like it or not, the Fire TV is essentially a subsidized product which, some would say, Kodi users slightly take advantage of. You could absolutely argue that happy Fire TV Kodi users have contributed greatly to the Fire TV’s overall popularity, which in turn resulted in more “normal user” sales. But that just adds to why this question is hard to answer, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Will Amazon block Kodi?
I think it’s very unlikely that Amazon will block Kodi. A recent report estimates that Amazon has sold 4.5 million Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks. I can’t imagine that a significant portion of those customers are Kodi users, so it just doesn’t seem worth the effort for Amazon to go after a rogue group of users. In my opinion, the Kodi community embracing the Fire TV has been a positive outcome for Amazon. Kodi users are more advanced than your average consumer and tend to be early adopters. Without early adopters like Kodi users, the Fire TV may not have reached the tipping point which shot it into the successful product it has become. We can only hope Amazon sees things the same way.