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Report: Microsoft, Samsung and others showing interest in Cyanogen

The Information reports that Cyanogen is being courted by several of the biggest names in the tech industry, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Samsung, and Amazon. Cyanogen even met with Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella.
August 29, 2014
kirt mcmaster steve kondik koushik dutta cyanogen
Kirt McMaster (left), Steve Kondik, and Koushik Dutta

Less than a year after it was established, Cyanogen is on a clear upward trajectory. The startup has even caught the eye of several tech giants, according to a new report.

The Information’s Amir Efrati reports that Cyanogen (an “obscure Android software firm,” he calls it) is being courted by several of the biggest names in the tech industry, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Samsung, and Amazon. These companies are reportedly looking at the startup founded by Steve Kondik and Kirt McMaster for potential partnerships or acquisitions.

Cyanogen and Microsoft's CEO reportedly had a sit-down

Cyanogen and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently had a “sit-down,” the report cites a person close to the matter as saying.

Unfortunately, the full story is behind a paywall, and I couldn’t find a different source.

Why would Microsoft, Yahoo, Samsung, and Amazon show interest in Cyanogen? As The Information puts it, these are all companies interested in developing Android apps or Android alternatives, and have an interest in doing this outside of Google’s control.

This resonates with a recent statement from Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster, who had this to say about Google’s control over its OS:

“Everyone in the world wants an open Android,” McMaster said. “They want to get outside of Google’s tyranny, if you will.”

Why is Cyanogen interesting to these companies?

Amazon is developing its own fork of Android, Fire OS, but it’s not obvious to me how it could benefit from Cyanogen’s team and the CyanogenMod project.

Yahoo, under Marissa Mayer, made no secret of its mobile ambitions – the company bought the Aviate launcher and a number of other Android apps, and partnering with Cyanogen could perhaps allow it to promote its web services and apps.

Samsung has long sought a plan B when it comes to mobile operating systems, and Tizen OS has so far failed to gather any steam.

The most intriguing of the lot is probably Microsoft – Windows Phone is struggling at 2-4 percent market share, despite Microsoft’s huge efforts over the last few years. Under Nadella, the company’s philosophy appears to be shifting towards releasing apps and products across all platforms. Also, Microsoft could be the only competitor able to offer a viable alternative to Google’s proprietary apps, like Gmail, Drive, Maps, and the Play Store. It isn’t that hard to imagine a bizarro world where CyanogenMod phones ship with a full suite of apps from Microsoft. Of course, that’s just speculation based on an incomplete report from a single source.

In potentially related news, this week we also learned that Cyanogen is partnering with a stealth startup called Nextbit, whose stated goal is to develop “breakthrough technology that allows for deeper integration between the cloud and mobile devices.” The first fruits of this collaboration will be revealed later this year, according to Nextbit’s CTO. What makes this mystery startup interesting is that it’s founded by and staffed with former core members of the Android team, as well as people from Apple and other big players. HTC’s former design boss has joined Nextbit as a VP just this week.