CyanogenMod To Release Two-Step Easy Installer, Plots World Domination
September 18, 2013 6:04 PM
Newly formed company must tread lightly lest it anger Google
CyanogenMod (aka "CM") -- originally the creation of one man, Steve "Cyanogen" Kondik -- is far and away
the most widely used replacement firmware
on the market for the world's most commonly used operating system, Google Inc.'s (
) Android. Today, Mr. Kondik's company -- which bears his handle -- is thriving, with 17 developers split between offices in Seattle and Palo Alto.
I. Cyanogen Becomes a Company
This week announced the completion of a round of venture capital funding.
that they raised $7M USD -- an impressive showing for such a small firm. Most of the funding came from
These are some marquee name backers. Benchmark is a prominent Menlo Park, Calif. VC, who has funded many industry greats including Facebook Inc.'s (
) Instagram, eBay, Inc. (
), the now defunct Palm Computing, and Red Hat Inc. (
). Redpoint -- also in Menlo Park -- helped fund Juniper Networks, Inc. (
), Netflix, Inc. (
), and Right Media, an advertiser that was acquired by Yahoo! Inc. (
First introduced in May 2009 for T-Mobile USA's G1 smartphone (the first major Android phone) -- Cyanogen grew via support for the
community. Today, official numbers show over 8 million users, but that's only the minority who opt to send feedback data to Cyanogen. Cyanogen CEO Kirk McMaster estimates the true user base is around 16 to 24 million users, according to an interview he gave to
Cyanogen's Jelly Bean (10.0) release [Image Source: Cyanogen Inc.]
He comments, "There’s always been lot of talk around who’s going to be the third dominant mobile computing platform. Windows Phone would probably be number three now. If you look at what our actual user base is, we might be equal to or greater than that."
The founder of the company, Steve Kondik, says that Cyanogen's wild growth has been fueled by carrier profiteering. Carriers are
slow to upgrade users' phones
, hoping to force users into early upgrades. But replacing your Android's firmware with Cyanogen -- which receives regular updates and
supports nearly all North American Android smartphones
-- cast a monkey wrench in those dastardly plans.
Mr. Kondik blogs:
Google completely decimated an entire sector of industry by releasing Android as open source, and CM became something of an underground revolution fighting against the players in that industry still hanging on to the old-hat idea of trying to sell you a disposable new telephone every couple of years while charging a premium for trivial things. We know these aren’t just phones anymore, they are powerful machines with immense capability, and we could make them work however we wanted.
II. A Simple Installer -- Free at Last
The CM developer ring didn't transform into a bonafide company until December 2012. Now, with funding backing it, Mr. Kondik promises a huge leap forward, which will make CM a true solution for all users, not just enthusiast hackers. He writes:
The biggest obstacle we wanted to get out of the way is the hideous installation process. Today there are more open and unlockable devices than ever, but they all have their quirks and wildly different installation procedures. We've done our best to document the process for every device we support on our wiki, but it is still a daunting process for mere mortals. This is not sufficient—installation needs to be easy and safe. This is a great deal of complexity to manage when you are talking about almost a hundred different devices, but we decided to tackle it.
Cyanogen's team. [Image Source: Cyanogen Inc.]
Cyanogen Inc. will be releasing a Play Store app that makes unlocking most common Android devices a trivial click through an installer process -- rather than the current installation guides which can involve 23 or more meticulous steps.
Cyanogen's upcoming two-step installer solution [Image Source: Cyanogen Inc.]
As to how the firm is going to make money, Mr. McMaster tells
, "If you’re the default OS on a device and you have 50 million users, there are a lot of ways to make money. It’s not just about building a user base. It’s about building great services you can’t get anywhere else."
One possibility is that Cyanogen Inc. could cut a deal to set the internal search end to the highest bidder by default. Such deals net Mozilla and Opera Software ASA (
) tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.
The real question is whether Google -- which has always toed the line between full-on rebel coders like CM and the carriers it's partnered with -- will continue to tolerate CM, which it has never officially commented on. As
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.
[Image Source: Hip Genius]
Thus Cyanogen Inc. might care to "tread lightly" as Walter White would say, lest Goole pull a page from Apple, Inc.'s (
) playbook and try to stomp it out.
"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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