Early last year, Steve Kondik and his team behind the popular custom Android ROM, CyanogenMod, decided that it was high time the team sprouted into a profitable business. The decision was one that took the Open Source Android Modding Community by surprise with the first inklings of the move surfacing months before. However, things were confirmed only when the mind behind the once default CyanogenMod camera app, Focal, pulled his application from the custom ROM due to the decision made by Steve Kondik and also the controversial way it was done.
The move created two branches of CyanogenMod: the community driven custom ROM, CyanogenMod, and a company called Cyanogen Inc.. This segmentation of the entity was deemed quite controversial at the time as it was seen as essentially profiteering off the open source nature of the Android Open Source Program (AOSP) based ROM which spent many years and iterations under development from many developers in the Android community. However, Steve Kondik and his team guaranteed that both sections of the entity would be developed simultaneously albeit Cyanogen having features which would be exclusive and unavailable on the community driven CyanogenMod.
It seems like this move is proving to be a profitable one for Kondik and his team. They debuted the first commercial version of CyanogenMod, the CyanogenMod 11S, with the release of the popular “flagship killer”, the OnePlus One. The device and its features gave the nascent company some much needed spotlight and it seems like that is just the beginning for the Cyanogen Inc. team. Amir Efrati, a writer over at The Information, reports that the “obscure Android software firm” is garnering some attention from big players such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Samsung and Amazon for possible partnerships and acquisitions. Apparently, according to a source close to the matter, Cyanogen Inc. and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, recently had a sit down. Details of this sit down are scant, if any.
The big question remains, why would big shots like Samsung and Microsoft, pay attention to a small company like Cyanogen Inc.? The answer can be summed up in one word: Google. As we all already know, Microsoft has dabbled in Android whilst Samsung is one of the biggest Android device manufacturer. Moreover, both are currently actively developing their own Windows Phone and Tizen platforms respectively. Essentially, both of these companies are looking to create platforms which are not dependant on Google; a sentiment shared by Cyanogen Inc. CEO, Kirk McMaster who has been quoted saying:
“Everyone in the world wants an open Android,…They want to get outside of Google’s tyranny, if you will.”
Bold words which ring quite true for the two companies. However, this leaves companies like Yahoo and Amazon who seem to be oddballs in this conversation. Yet, they are showing interest. Yahoo, for starters, recently purchased Aviate, an Android launcher, hinting that the company may have some plans for the Android ecosystem. On the other hand, Amazon has its Kindle Fire OS which is essentially a highly customised (i.e. “Forked”) version of Android. Both companies seem to want the development expertise of the team to either further their apps of bolster their ecosystem.
Furthermore, it seems like Cyanogen Inc., is also teaming up with a startup called Nextbit. The details of this partnership is still shrouded in mystery. According to Nextbit Chief Technical Officer (CTO), the partnership will bear its first fruits later this year. If we take Nextbit’s goal of developing “breakthrough technology that allows for deeper integration between the cloud and mobile devices” into consideration, it is possible that the companies may be developing a version of Android which could possibly be emancipated from Google or rely solely on servers and cloud services which are independent or possibly self hosted. One more interesting tidbit: Nextbit is made of former core members of the Android team.