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Can Cyanogen make it where bigger companies have failed?

Going commercial and securing funding allows the team to fully focus on improving and growing CyanogenMod, and the partnership with Oppo is promising, but is it enough? Can Cyanogen make it as a business?
September 20, 2013
The-Friday-Debate aa

Evan Forester

On this edition of the Friday Debate, we talk about the transformation of the CyanogenMod custom ROM project into Cyanogen Inc, a startup that aims for nothing less than the third place behind Android and iOS.

Many companies have made a business out of open source software, but Steve Kondik and his ragtag team of enthusiasts clearly have their work cut out. Going commercial and securing funding allows the team to fully focus on improving and growing CyanogenMod, and the partnership with Oppo is promising, but is it enough? Can Cyanogen make it as a business?

Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!

Robert Triggs

As a long time fan and user of CyanogenMod, the news that the team was going commercial was welcome news to my ears. Although it’s tough to say at this point whether or not the venture will succeed, there’s plenty of interesting implications for Android that will certainly attract a decent following of hard-core Android enthusiasts.

I certainly don’t think that this is a big problem for Google, after all virtually every handset manufacturer tweaks Android and adds features for their own hardware. If anything this is more likely to be a concern for other manufacturers, such as Samsung or HTC, who are often criticised for offering bloated hardware.

I suppose that my only reservation about this venture is that the CyanogenMod ROM could lose some of its open source aspects that made it such a success in the first place. Will new features be made specifically for its own hardware, and how much support with other CyanogenMod developers received in implementing features on other handsets?

On the whole, having hardware that can be properly supported is going to give users a better CM experience and offer Android users a wider choice of software. If the hardware is right, there’s every chance that Cyanogen Inc could attract a decent following. Best of luck to them.

Adam Koueider

I can’t seem to hold back my disappointment at the announcement of Cyanogen Inc. By now it’s clear that Cyanogen Mod won’t quite be the same Open Source community contributed project that it used to be.

I can definitely relate to some of the backlash. The people who have contributed to Cyanogenmod are now witnessing others make money off of what they helped create. We’ve already seen the fallout begin with the removal of the Focal app and I’d expect a decrease in outside contributions.

Of course, I bear no hate towards Steve and the rest of Cyanogen Inc. They’ve built something which people obviously think is worth investing in and are now getting paid for what they once did as a hobby. It’s obviously a dream come true for them and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

With Oppo all but being confirmed as the hardware partner for Cyanogen Inc. this October is going to be interesting. The Oppo N1, Nexus 5 and Sony Xperia Z1 are all vying for my money. Let’s just hope that the commercial move for Cyanogen doesn’t go all Gray Matter and Breaking Bad on us.

Kyle Wiggers

Incorporation, especially of a group that maintains open source software, has its advantages from a developer and end-user standpoint. Consider Canonical, makers of Ubuntu: though the company hasn’t quite reached profitability, its potential has attracted and continues to attract millions of investor dollars, which pay developer salaries. With a full-time coding staff, Canonical has the freedom to not only to pursue amazingly innovative software and services, but also to commit to firm deadlines and provide long-term support for its products. Volunteer efforts are great and wonderful things, but most consumers want assurance that the software they rely on will continue to receive updates and function far into the future. The not-for-profit CyanogenMod team couldn’t achieve that.

Certainly, there are some dissenting opinions, both within and outside of CyanogenMod. (The removal of Focal is evidence enough of that.) Many believe the focus of a corporate CyanogenMod will be profit, not user experience. I disagree. The Android ROM space is highly competitive – circumventing any overt cash grab would be as simple as flashing new firmware. CyanogenMod, therefore, has good reason to make their consumer distribution of Android the best it can be.

In sum, considering the benefits a startup of this sort is sure to enjoy, I couldn’t be happier with the team’s decision, and look forward to seeing what fruit their hardware partnerships bear.

What do YOU think?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

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