Cyanogen: Helping to unify Android

Far from helping to fragment Android, the new CyanogenMod company will help unify it for both users and developers.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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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