CyanogenMod: The birth of a company

What is CyanogenMod? To understand that, you must first understand the concept of custom ROMs. Custom ROMs are solely for Android, and are unlike jailbreaking iOS devices. Due to Android being such a massive platform, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to abandon their devices very quickly, leaving them out of the loop of brand new Android versions. Custom ROMs are then used by the owners of such devices to get the latest and greatest Android version and all its features. These are not the only people who install custom ROMs. There are a great many people who are disgusted by Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense and LG’s Optimus UI, and need as close as an experience to stock Android as possible, while enjoying the hardware of their respective phones. CyanogenMod is just one of these ROM developer groups. Well, was. CyanogenMod is the most used ROM in the history of Android, and probably in the history of all smartphones. There are other ROM developers like ParanoidAndroid and Linaro, but these pale in comparison to what CyanogenMod’s team has done. And now, they’re taking the next step.

CyanogenMod is not just a custom ROM team anymore. It’s a full fledged company. This is massive news for anyone who uses CM or is thinking of flashing CM on their phones. Now, CyanogenMod Inc has decided to use Android as it’s basis for it’s almost new OS. This means it is actually going to directly compete with Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Their new OS will definitely be a significant departure from stock Android. While it will keep all of Android’s good features (judged as Cyanogen Inc sees fit), Cyanogen Inc will also decide to implement features that they think will improve the CM experience. They will still be using Android as a core, which means your Google account will still be synced on CM. The app market will still be Play Store, the mail client will be GMail, there will be Google Now, just to name a few. In a world where mobile carriers strive to delay updates to force you to upgrade phones quicker, Cyanogen Inc was and still is a ‘rebel’ movement of sorts.

Cyanogen Inc has publicly stated that their goal is to overtake Windows Phone and Blackberry to take #3 spot in the smartphone OS market, and they may  very well achieve that with ease. CM already has 8 million registered users, and is closing on Windows Phone fast, having already left Blackberries in the dust. However, Steve Kondik, founder of CM believes that these 8 million are less than a 50% share of those who actually have CM flashed on their phones. To become a reigstered user on CM, one needs to check a box that allows data to be shared with Cyanogen Inc, and knowing most people’s fear of data harvesting, it is quite likely that majority of the people using CM are generally more informed about the risks of data sharing with organizations, and have hence disabled it. If this is true, CM users far surpass even Windows Phone users, meaning that with the new CM, the number will grow further.

It should also be noted, that those who probably haven’t switched to a custom ROM have not done so because a) they’re already on Nexus devices, but largely because b) they are afraid of permanently damaging their device. To actually flash a ROM on your phone one has to first check if bootloader is unlocked, then proceed to unlock it if it’s locked, proceeding that one must root it, and then one must wipe all data, cache and finally flash the custom ROM on their phone. CyanogenMod builds clearly state variations of the following at the beginning of every post on XDA-Developers’ forums:

Your warranty is now void.
 *
 * I am not responsible for bricked devices, dead SD cards,
 * thermonuclear war, or you getting fired because the alarm app failed. Please
 * do some research if you have any concerns about features included in this ROM
 * before flashing it! YOU are choosing to make these modifications, and if
 * you point the finger at me for messing up your device, I will laugh at you.
 *
 * Submitting bug reports on nightly builds is the leading 
 * cause of male impotence.

Yet, one must wonder, how come a whopping eight million people have flashed CM on their devices when the risk is so high? This indicates that people are willing to take the risk of permanently destroying their device just to seek the goodness of CM. Not only that, installing a custom ROM is a huge time consuming task. What Cyanogen Inc has thought now is to get those still using custom launchers to get away with the poor design and features of manufacturer skins, to embrace CM fully. How they will do this is by introducing a brand new installer, free of all the danger that current installation provides. It will also be a very clean interface that will greatly reduce install time as well. This new installer (images below) will be available on the Play Store in a few weeks, so those still scared should let go of their fears and become one of many CM users.

Summarising what has been said by them, Steve Kondik wrote this on their blog here:

Our goals today are straightforward:

  • Organize, lead, and support our community
  • Create amazing user experience centered around how YOU work
  • Security solutions that really work
  • Stay committed to building the features our users need
  • No junk
  • Constant updates
  • Available on everything, to everyone

One must wonder though, where are they going to get the money from? They did so by raising $7 million mainly from venture capital firms Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures. Both of these firms are large names in the business. Benchmark is a prominent Menlo Park, Calif. VC, who has funded many industry greats including Facebook Inc.’s (FB) Instagram, eBay, Inc. (EBAY), the now defunct Palm Computing, and Red Hat Inc. (RHT).  Redpoint — also in Menlo Park — helped fund Juniper Networks, Inc. (JNPR), Netflix, Inc. (NFLX), and Right Media, an advertiser that was acquired by Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO).

What’s even more is that Cyanogen Inc has announced that they have a hardware partner, which means that it could take as little as a year to see Cyanogen’s own OS being rolled out from the factory on phones. Our best bet is that Oppo, creator of the Find line of devices, and now the N1, is going to be Cyanogen Inc’s partner, mainly because of their willingness to work with custom ROM makers, especially Cyanogen Inc. Oppo is a very good (albeit Chinese) company which, if couple with Cyanogen Inc, could find itself making rapid inroads into the Western smartphone market. Check out some of Oppo’s phones here. Regardless of the hardware partner, though, these are certainly extremely exciting times ahead for Cyanogen Inc and its users.

However, Google has never seen eye-to-eye with companies such as the the one Cyanogen Inc is now. It has never really made any comments in public about CM, but that may be about to change. If Cyanogen Inc is truly launching their own OS, it might be a violation of Google’s terms of service for apps that aren’t open-sourced parts of Android. As “The Verge” pointed out in their article here:

But what if some of those services get blocked? Core Google apps including Gmail, Chrome, and Maps aren’t open-sourced parts of Android — they’re part of Google Play Services. Using Google Play Services requires that a device be certified by Google. Firmware modifications like Cyanogen bring devices into a gray area where the original phone may have been certified, but the modified version could fall outside Google’s guidelines.

Cyanogen Inc will have to tread lightly now. They’re not just a ragtag team of modders anymore, but will be direct competition to Google. It is now up to Google to decide whether to encourage them, or follow Apple’s direction in stomping out such projects. For more information, do check out CyanogenMod Inc’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) over here at Reddit.com! Also, here’s famous YouTube reviewer MKBHD explaining more about this!

What do you as users think of Cyanogen Inc’s direction? Is this the correct way to go, and will you now become an adopter of their products? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below! You can also visit our Facebook page, and follow our Twitter to comment there as well!




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