Android Wars: Microsoft Invests In Alternative Android Mobile Operating System Cyanogen
The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft will invest in alternative Android mobile Operating System Cyanogen. Microsoft will be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing that values Cyanogen in the high hundreds of millions.
Cyanogen is an open source OS for smartphones and tablet computers. It is based on the open source version of Android released by Google, with added original and third-party code.
Prior investors in Cyanogen included Benchmark Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Chinese social-networking giant Tencent.
Cyanogen Inc. distributes the commercial Cyanogen OS that can be pre-installed on mobile devices. According to the company, Cyanogen OS comes with a number of rich software advancements around personalization, performance and security.
The OnePlus One smartphone with pre-installed Cyanogen OS received rave reviews, but it can only be purchased by invited users, which limits its diffusion. It’s evident that the awkward invite-only model is due to the limited ability of the small China-based OnePlus company to meet a possible large demand. Indian smartphone manufacturer Micromax will also ship handsets pre-installed with Cyanogen OS.
What is Microsoft decides to adopt Cyanogen OS as main Microsoft mobile OS for smartphones and tablets?
The Cyanogen open source community site distributes CyanogenMod, a customized aftermarket firmware distribution that can be downloaded and installed on Android devices. According to the company, CyanogenMod is designed to increase performance and reliability over Android firmware released by Google, device manufacturers and carriers. As of June 2014, CyanogenMod recorded over 12 million active installs on a multitude of devices, but the actual number may be much higher since many users don’t report installs.
At this moment Android dominates the mobile OS market with an 85% share. Apple’s iOS is second with a share of 12%, and Microsoft’s mobile OS comes distant third with less than 3%.
What’s in the deal for Microsoft? Of course, anything that weakens the dominant position of Google in the mobile OS arena is good for Microsoft.
But here is also the possibility that Microsoft decides to adopt Cyanogen OS as main Microsoft mobile OS for smartphones and tablets. That would provide Microsoft with proven mobile OS technology and an army of passionate open source developers worldwide, and bootstrap a new mobile software ecosystem.
According to Wired, Microsoft is intent on embracing open source software – even open source software that may appear to compete with its own products and services. This is how most young tech companies operate – open source now serves as the foundation for so much of the internet – but this is relatively new territory for Microsoft. The company realizes it must embrace open source – software that’s freely available to the world at large – in order to compete.
Images from Cyanogen and Shutterstock.