You may have heard Cyanogen’s name around the web today, after the company announced it had received $80 million in funding from Twitter Ventures, Qualcomm, Telefónica Ventures, Rupert Murdoch and several other big-name investors. In hopes to scale up in a big way, Cyanogen says it will use the funding to “hire talent and accelerate the development of its open OS platform.” In recent months, Cyanogen’s outspoken CEO Kirt McMaster has voiced his dreams to create a “Google-less Android”, which he hopes to one day bring to the masses.
It’s no secret that McMaster has a problem with Google and its alleged “tyrannical” control over Android. In fact, in a recent interview with Forbes, the CEO goes as far as saying “We’re putting a bullet through Google’s head.” That comment isn’t to be taken lightly, especially since the company obviously has big investors backing them up. No matter the feasibility of Cyanogen’s plans, that’s a bold statement.
So what’s the first step in creating a Google-less Android? We’ve heard a lot of talk from McMaster in the last few months regarding his big plans, but up until now, we haven’t heard many details about how he actually plans to achieve his goals. In the same interview with Forbes, some details were outed regarding the company’s future hardware partners. Blu, the Miami-based hardware manufacturer, is said to create the first phone running the Google-less Cyanogen OS, that will be released later this year. Blu’s CEO explains that the details have yet to be ironed out, but he hopes that the new Cyanogen phone will use the Amazon Appstore, the Opera web browser, Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive for cloud storage, Nokia Here for maps and Spotify for music consumption. It will also feature Bing for web searches and Microsoft’s Cortana for a voice assistant. “When these other apps are deeply integrated into the phone, most of the time they perform better than the Google apps”, says Blu CEO Samuel Ohev-Zion.
Cyanogen hopes to create revenue-sharing deals with developers to integrate application services deep into the Cyanogen OS.
Cyanogen hopes to create revenue-sharing deals with developers to integrate application services deep into the Cyanogen OS. Vikram Natarajan, Senior VP of Global Partnerships and Distribution at Cyanogen, says the deals will take a number of different forms, from distribution to in-app purchase agreements to customized services for specific countries. He even says that in some cases, Cyanogen will share revenue from those deals with OEMs that are struggling to narrow margins.
It’s very possible that this rumored Blu device won’t ever come into fruition.
Between developing a hardware partnership, locking in $80 million worth of funding, and boldly speaking up against the Google mothership, one would think Cyanogen’s path to success would be smooth sailing from here on out. But in the past, Google has been known to put pressure on partners that wanted to create a forked version of Android. Most notably, Google seemingly strong-armed Acer into canceling the launch of the CloudMobile A800, a mobile device running the Android-based Aliyun OS. Aliyun was a forked version of Android, incompatible with Google services, that had very little to do with Google. The smartphone was ultimately put to rest, likely because of Google’s warnings that the launch of the device would jeopardize Acer’s Android partnership.
With that said, it’s very possible that this rumored Blu device won’t ever come into fruition. Google may not be able to scare away Cyanogen with the same argument it used for Acer back in 2012, but it doesn’t seem likely that McMaster’s plans to create a Google-less version of Android will actually offer up something more substantial than what Android can offer today. The entire situation between Cyanogen, Blu and Google is quite muddy at the moment, so we’ll need to wait and see what comes in the future.
What are your thoughts on McMaster’s plans for Android? If the first Cyanogen phone without Google will be made by Blu, do you think it has a chance to make it in the mass market? Or will all of Cyanogen’s bold claims and plans ultimately blow up in their face? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.