Cyanogen, the company behind CyanogenMod, started small. It began as a group of developers that wanted to produce a high-quality alternative Android firmware. Today, it still stands behind a great Android alternative, but its ambitions now go so high as to consider taking on Apple and Google.
McMaster's master plan for doing that, he said at a recent Android conference, is to make "a version of Android that is more open so we can integrate with more partners so their services can be tier one services, so startups working on [artificial intelligence] or other problems don't get stuck having you have to launch a stupid little application that inevitably gets acquired by Google or Apple. These companies can thrive on non-Google Android."
Cyanogen has a long history of been annoyed at Google for its control of the Android software stack. In 2009, Cyanogen's founder, Steve Kondik, was forced to back off from his plans to include Google services on his own terms in an early version of CyanogenMod.
This isn't about wanting to get even with Google though. Cyanogen's investors want to take CyanogenMod from being simply the best Android firmware company, with seven to eight-figures of possible gross income, to a major mobile OS player with an upside in the billions.
I find that hard to buy.
The only thing that makes me take Cyanogen's plans seriously is that Amazon and Microsoft appear to be looking into investing in Cyanogen to help create an Android software eco-system that's not under Google's control. But, honestly, even if Amazon and Microsoft backed Cyanogen to the hilt, would that really matter?
Last, but not least, we've seen numerous companies try to seize at least enough market share from Apple and Google to come up with a creditable third-place mobile operating system. These have included Mozilla, with Firefox OS; Canonical, with Ubuntu Touch; Samsung, with Tizen; and on and on. None of them have made a real dent in the market place.
So, if none of these companies were able to break Apple and Google's grip on the market why should we believe that Cyanogen can do better? CyanogenMod is a good product, but at day's end, it's just an alternative Android firmware and the company hasn't proven it can successfully partner with major carriers or smartphone vendors.
No, Cyanogen may want to play with the big boys, but, even if the company got Amazon and Microsoft's support, I can't see it.