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Any company can use Android in its products. Google has made the operating system freely available to any who wish to use it, which has certainly contributed to its position in the smartphone market and the sheer number of devices that rely on Android to function. Lately the company has been trying to balance this commitment to a free and open Android with its desire to make sure its mobile efforts aren’t obviated by the same companies that have used the operating system to achieve dominance. Google is walking the line between “open” and “closed.”

“While Android is open, it’s more of a ‘look but don’t touch’ kind of open. You’re allowed to contribute to Android and allowed to use it for little hobbies, but in nearly every area, the deck is stacked against anyone trying to use Android without Google’s blessing,” says Ars Technica reviews editor Ron Amadeo in a blog post detailing Google’s efforts. “The second you try to take Android and do something that Google doesn’t approve of, it will bring the world crashing down upon you.”

Google has to approve any Android device that wishes to allow access to the Google Play store, the primary apps marketplace on Android. Without that approval manufacturers must choose between releasing a device that allows access to a different app store or releasing a device that can’t download new software from an apps marketplace at all. Either option prevents consumers from interacting with the best versions of Google apps like Maps, Gmail, or Google Search.

Basically, companies that wish to use Android without Google’s blessing have to recreate almost everything that makes a modern smartphone so compelling in the first place. And no company has done that better than Amazon, at least according to Upfront Ventures partner Mark Suster.

“What’s the one company that’s really trying to fork Android, that’s really trying to build its own version, changing the browser, and trying to build better technology? Amazon,” Suster said during our PandoMonthly event on Wednesday. “I think the great wars of the future, over the Internet, are going to be Google, Apple, Amazon, and Samsung. They’re all building mobile devices, they’re all building mobile ecosystems, and they’re all going to have to address video. That’s the future.”

Not bad for a company whose primary use of Android is the behind-the-scenes operation of a glorified sales catalog.

[Photo by Rebecca Aranda for Pandodaily]