Some random thoughts on the Cyanogen news

BY Stefan Constantinescu

Published 19 Sep 2013

Late last night, at least in my time zone, the team behind the custom Android ROM CyanogenMod announced that they raised $7 million. With that money, they intend on releasing one-click installers for their software. So instead of following a ridiculously painful guide to get CyanogenMod on your phone, you just have to plug it into your computer, open an executable file, and you’re done. This installer will be Windows first, Mac second, and Linux maybe. Cyanogen also intends to release their own hardware, which they’ll talk amore about at a future date and time.

My first thought when I read the news: This is already happening in China. Hugo Barra, a prominent former Google employee, left the search giant to join Xiaomi, a company that makes Android phones based on the XiaoMI User Interface, which most people know as MIUI. That’s actually how Xiaomi started. First they were a custom Android ROM, like CyanogenMod, and then they moved into hardware.

Tell me, what exactly is Cyanogen going to do differently?

Then this morning, I read an article on Android Police that made me realize I should probably not be holding my nose up in the air at the Cyanogen news. Here’s a quote, attributed to Cyanogen’s VP of Engineering, that made my head spin:

We’re in an interesting spot, because typically GSF (Google Services Framework) is licensed to OEMs, not software vendors (us). But becoming a legitimate business entity and partnering with an OEM are the first steps to licensing GSF. Most of the technical hurdles have already been overcome (passing CTS – Compatibility Test Suite).

Tom Moss, who is on our board, is the ex-head of Business Developments and Partnerships at Google. He basically drafted all the agreements to license GSF, anti fragmentation clauses, etc. He’ll be very helpful as well on this front moving forward.

The guy who used to talk to handset makers about using Google’s services on top of Android is now on Cyanogen’s board. Let that sink in for a second. At first I thought who would want Cyanogen if it meant getting rid of Gmail, Google Maps, and the Play Store. Now that it looks like Cyanogen is going to be a fully equipped Android release, it’s a different story altogether.

But then again, I get doubts, and I ask myself what would Cyanogen have to do to convince people that they should even consider flashing their phone and voiding their warranty? Right now the only benefit to using CyanogenMod is being on the latest version of Android. The guys over there are also working on a new camera user interface and an iMessage-like service, but is that compelling enough?

There’s also the question about money. How will Cyanogen put food on the table?

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know what’s going to happen, because this is a brave new world. Geeks are used to putting their operating system of choice on their computers, but the mainstream just uses whatever comes with their PC. Now that phones will soon be able to easily(?) get a new operating system, will phone flashing become a semi-mainstream phenomenon?

I don’t know.

Oh and one more thing. I’m seeing a lot of people upset that Cyanogen “sold out”. I’m sorry, but those men and women have families. Open source software is something that’s fine to be excited about, but at some point you need to support yourself. And besides, there are a million other Android ROMs out there, so please, stop moaning. Google doesn’t even care about being open, they develop Android behind closed doors and then throw the source code over the fence every six months.