Cyanogen: Helping to unify Android

Cyanogen: Helping to unify Android

Summary: Far from helping to fragment Android, the new CyanogenMod company will help unify it for both users and developers.


Will Cyanogen, the newly minted commercial company behind the alternative CyanogenMod Android firmware, actually help fragment Android? Hmmm... Here's the one word answer: "No."

CyanogenMod Logo

Here's the longer explanation.

As Cyanogen co-founders Steve Kondik and Koushik Dutta explained on a Reddit Ask-Me -Anything online interview, they have no intentions of forking Android. CyanogenMod is based on the Android Open Source Project and that's not changing. As Dutta said, "We love Google services, and so do our users. Despite sensationalist headlines from earlier today, we feel we are an ally to Google, not a competitor."

Indeed, CyanogenMod users can currently use Google services, Google apps, and the Google’s Play Store. If anything with new Cyanogen board member Tom Moss, Google's ex-head of Business Development, Cyanogen may be able to integrate CyanogenMod more closely with Google's services.

What CyanogenMod brings to the table isn't a better Android fork. Instead, it brings up-to-date versions of Android to users who resent behind left with older versions by their carriers and device original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

So, far from further fragmenting Android, an easy-to-install CyanogenMod will actually help to eliminate fragmentation.

The root cause of Android fragmentation is companies that are no longer updating older devices. So, while Jelly Bean, Google's latest mobile operating system is on more than 45 percent of all Android devices, there are still hundreds of millions of tables and smartphones still running Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread.

Cyanogen's reason for being has always been to bring the latest version of Android to inadequately supported equipment. Now, by having the resources to support more of these older devices from OEMs such as Samsung, Motorola, LG, etc., Cyanogen, it will actually help users move to more broadly supported Android versions. This, in turn, will mean developers can spend more time on the newer Android operating systems and less on older models.

So, the real problem that Cyanogen faces isn't fragmenting Android. Far from it!

The only real problem Cyanogen faces is keeping its existing user base. There are a few, but very noisy CyanogenMod fans who are throwing fits because the core Cyanogen developers are daring to try to try to make a living from the operating system.

Money, for the short run, isn't a major concern for Cyanogen. "Monetization isn't an immediate concern and our investors and Benchmark and Redpoint feel the same," said Dutta. "CyanogenMod has the potential to become an enormous platform play, and to do that, we need to foster and grow the ecosystem. Right now, we just want to build something compelling and grow the user base. Eventually, there are innumerable paths to monetization once we reach economics of scale: licensing our software/services to OEMs, building hardware, creating secure enterprise solutions, etc."

I think he may be right by making your Android upgrades as easy as installing a Google Play app. I can see CyanogenMod vastly increasing its 7.8-million users to tens, or even hundreds, of million users. I can also easily see an OEM deciding to turn to Cyanogen for their Android rather than rolling their own.

In short, I see CyanogenMod actually helping to unify Android and potentially becoming a major Android player in its own right.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Linux, Mobile OS, Open Source

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  • Why would OEMs use CM when they don't run stock Android?

    This is a genuine question, not just rhetorical. What is the benefit of CyanogenMod to OEMs that stock Android doesn't provide?

    Is the benefit that CM does the development? If Google offered to do development for OEMs, would more go with stock Android? I don't think so, for some reason. All the OEMs want to differentiate themselves. But maybe I'm missing something. Thoughts?
    • CM does the dev

      Each supported device requires some work to bring android to it. Display, chip support etc.
      CM can do this for an OEM rather then their own internal teams.
      Plus the extra features that CM brings over stock (eg Privacy guard)
    • Oppo

      is going to offer CM in addition to their own skin on their newest phone. Perhaps this is a way for smaller hardware companies to get in the android game. CM offers many customizable features not available on stock android, that is a nice niche.
    • Plenty

      Custom Theming engine
      Custom Equalizer
      Pie control
      Manual Widget resizing
      **To name a few
      There are tons of controls, customizations, and optimizations that CM makes that OEM's just don't include for one reason or the other.
  • Totally Agree

    Would love to see some OEM's adopt it in time, but for now just let them carry on their great work bringing the latest versions to older but still good devices.
    They have plenty of time to monetize later. Not like they are planning on charging for downloads. It's still open source :)
  • it is a good move

    There are too many phones running old and outdated software, and too many carriers and vendors who are abondoning old phones.
    The only people who would oppose this are the carriers as it would mean that people wouldn't need to buy the newest phone to get the newest features, as they are now.
    • Judging by Apple's sales over the weekend, lots of people buy new

      Hard to believe it, but it is true.
      • apple fanbois are a different breed...

        If Jobs pooped in a box and called it Icrap they would buy it 3 at a time.
        • never one to snark anonyously

          but for some reason shows up that way today
        • true and...

          if ballmer dropped a pile and called it a tile, m$ fan boys would get mouthfuls of it.
  • Watch out for PAGANS

    They are well known hijackers of the Pseudohalogenic compound cyanogen
  • Android Is Already More Unified Than Its Competitors

    It is Microsoft that is massively fragmented, with Windows Phone 7 versus Windows Phone 8 versus Windows RT versus Windows Windows. It is Apple that leaves an unbridgeable gap between "handset" and "tablet", without allowing the possibility of in-between devices.

    No wonder Android runs rings around these two, making them look like incompetent buffoons. Only Android can offer such massive hardware diversity all built off a common software base offering common software functionality, yet the fanbois of loser proprietary systems insist on trying to devalue this diversity and choice by labelling it "fragmentation".

    Android is a fragmentation grenade, and it is Microsoft and Apple that are being hit by the shrapnel.
  • Android is five years old today, since the launch of the G1

    Google recently announced one billion Android activations. It runs smartphones (80% share), satellites, watches, tablets, ebooks, refrigerators, TVs, home entertainment systems - and no end in sight. Android devices are at least a 300 billion dollar a year business after only five years. From NOTHING. The complaint about fragmentation? It's five years and 9 months old. It has actually been around for 15% longer than Android itself, and it has not harmed Android in the slightest.

    Give it up already. The horse is dead. Actually, there never was a horse.
  • I think there's a real market for this

    I have a Galaxy Tab 10.1 -- which was a very popular tablet. In fact, many think it was the first Android tablet worth buying. Well, I was one of those who bought the 10.1 as my first tablet.

    Today, Samsung will upgrade the Galaxy Tab 2 10.2, but not the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (original). Even though the specs are BETTER on the latter. It's not like this tablet can't handle Jelly Bean.

    So it's true -- the OEMs are dropping the ball on giving existing customers the latest versions. There is no incentive to do so -- in fact, they'd rather incentivize buying a new tablet so I can get the latest Android.

    Forget them! I will never buy another Samsung. Next time will be a Google brand tablet with stock Android.