Just Where Is Cyanogen Taking Us?
If you have rooted your phone or flashed a custom rom, chances are you have heard about CyanogenMod. The company has given users the chance to customize their devices greatly, remove bloatware and keep up with the latest OTA updates long after their device has been abandoned by their carriers. By developing a universal installer, it has brought an ease and grace to installing rarely found in other roms, with CyanogenMod officially supported on 256 devices and unofficially on many more. Over the last few years Cyanogen has boomed in popularity. It is currently the most popular AOSP rom and does not look to be slowing down any time soon.
On January 7th 2014 high end smartphone manufacturer One Plus announced that it was partnering with Cyanogen inc. Their aim was to bring a custom version of CyanogenMod to their devices and for a while this seemed to be a match made in heaven. A brilliant high end device at a budget price and the custom rom we had grown to love. Unfortunately, tension rose between these two companies in November when Cyanogen announced that they had arranged a deal with Micromax for exclusive rights to CyanogenMod in India. Now with OnePlus having just released the name of their own international OxygenOS and for their Chinese devices H2OS, It looks like their partnership is fracturing more and more.
In early October 2014, it was reported that Google’s Sundar Pichai had met with Cyanogen and expressed an interest in acquiring the company, but was turned down. This rejection whilst not surprising may indeed have been a wise move. The acquisition would have left their future directly in the hands of the company, that not only are they trying to best in terms of OS but are also their biggest threat. Cyanogen have always been hubristically vocal on their opinion of other companies directions, going as far as to say “Samsung couldn’t build a good OS if they tried.” Recently they solidified their opinion of Google with the statement “I’m the CEO of Cyanogen. We’re attempting to take Android away from Google.” Along with “Today, Cyanogen has some dependence on Google. Tomorrow, it will not,” he said. “We will not be based on some derivative of Google in three to five years. There will be services that are doing the same old bul****t with Android, and then there will be something different. That is where we’re going here.” It is not at all surprising then, that at the same San Francisco conference he also confirmed a Cyanogen app store; to be released in the next year and a half. This would be a considerable plus for both apps such as Xposed Installer, Easy Root, and many others that have been removed from the play store due to violations of google’s terms of service. However, security wise this could pose a large threat, with malware for Android on the rise and rooted devices frequently having issues with security flaws. Play Store alternatives have understandably always been considerably less popular than the original with the most high profile being the Amazon App Store, which in June of last year stated they had 240,000 available apps, less than a fifth of the Play Stores 1.3 million.
In a catch 22 scenario, it would make sense to package this app store and keep it exclusive to users of the rom. In doing so, however, they start down the slippery slope of going against one of custom roms defining features, the lack of bloatware. On the other hand, by not including it in the rom and having it available as an optional download, they are already losing users.
This development will be one of the first times Cyanogen actively and continually makes money from their platform, with the above mentioned deal with OnePlus looking to end and the theme engine not generating enough income to support the company. So far, they have relied on investors such as Tencent, Benchmark, Andreessen Horowitz and recently Microsoft, who have been reported to have invested $70 million in the company. This in itself is unusual and I can only begin to guess at Microsoft’s logic behind the move as both companies declined to comment on the investment. But as this emerges just days after the “taking Android away from Google” speech, it wouldn’t be surprising if Microsoft believe they can truly deliver on this and become a true threat to stock Android in the future.
As to where CyanogenMod is taking us, we have all heard the phrase pride comes before a fall, and as the comments they make about other companies show, they have more than their fair share of pride. It is highly possible that they could end up changing and expanding beyond their capabilities before fading away. However, over the next few years we may well see huge changes to the rom, as it develops and moves away from Google. We could even see them develop their own independent OS. With the recent investment, we could see Microsoft take a much bigger part in the companies future, even going as far as seeing Microsoft making a OnePlus style deal with a subsidiary such as Nokia, attempting to claw back their market share again by running a future rendition of CyanogenMod on their mobile devices.
One thing is for sure, no matter the direction they head in, the developer community will always strive for more, strive for better and never settle.
Where do you think Cyanogen is taking us? Tell us below!