One of the biggest detriments to Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet is that it does not support location-based services. This was likely a choice from Amazon to leave GPS hardware out of the device to cut down on costs. The lack of location services on the Fire greatly hinders what kind of apps can run on the device. One company has figured out a way around the Fire's restrictions and is bringing its navigation app to the Fire.
HopStop is a metropolitan navigation app that gives door-to-door directions for pedestrians, cyclists, taxis and mass transit in over 200 cities in the United States and Canada. Without location services on a device, HopStop's app is basically useless. Enter location provider Skyhook with a simple fix to a complex problem.
Skyhook can bypass the lack of native location hardware in the Kindle Fire because it does not use GPS or other device components. Skyhook is built off a software-only Wi-Fi Positioning System that exists outside of device requirements.
What the Skyhook SDK does is provide an external pipe for location-based services into the hardware of a device. This works perfectly for a device like the Fire that does not have any native functionality nor cellular data connectivity that would be an easy away to implement location.
Skyhook does not have a business relationship with Amazon. The company focuses its attention on the developer ecosystem as a means of growth and an alternative located-based services option.
"We have no business relationship with Amazon, merely with the app developers. They add our location engine to their app and submit it to Amazon for approval," Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan said in an email to ReadWriteWeb. "As long as the app meets their guidelines, then it is approved and published. With HopStop, we now have 2 app partners live in their store and fully approved."
For developers looking to publish apps to the Amazon Appstore, the technical requirements of the Fire force many apps to change certain aspects of the codebase, mostly concerning native device access. Amazon has no qualms with pushing Web apps or sites instead of native Android apps in its Appstore. For instance, the native Facebook and Twitter apps are not represented. Amazon uses a shortcut to the mobile websites of each. Part of the reason for that has to do with the permissions that each of those apps require, such as location.
It is not likely that behemoths like Facebook and Twitter will change how they handle location specifically for the Fire. But that does not mean that smaller companies with individual apps cannot take advantage of Skyhook's SDK to reach the Fire. That is what HopStop is doing.
is fighting and ongoing legal battle with Google over being excluded as a location services provider on Android devices. Morgan and Skyhook have been forced to find a different route to get Skyhook onto Android devices without Google's official support.It has been well documented that Skyhook
"We don't have a great relationship with Google because of them banning our device partners (Motorola and Samsung) from baking us into their Android phones," Morgan said. "So we work with app developers to help them directly get better location using Skyhook. It takes longer but we aim to get on every Android device one way or the other. As of today we are on over 25 million Android phones thru app developers."
Currently, the Android SDK only supports versions 2.1 Eclair and 2.2 Froyo in addition to the Kindle Fire. Since the Fire is built off of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, official support should roll out fairly soon. Morgan said that Skyhook plans on supporting all versions of Android for developers.
"We have about a hundred of the top Android developers who use our Android Location SDK, but we are just getting started with targeting the Fire," Morgan said. "Most developers are just waking up to that platform and are rushing to get their apps into the amazon store overall. We are reaching out to all the location based app developers and letting them know they can launch for the Fire if they add the Skyhook Location SDK. We have gotten tremendous response on that and expect to announce about a dozen app partners in the next couple of months."
Are you excited for actual, functional location on the Kindle Fire? Do location-based services make a device more attractive or is it something that you do not miss until it is gone? Let us know in the comments.