Musings on Cyanogen Inc.

It was a bit over a year ago that I blogged “Who Will Become Android’s Red Hat?”.

By this, I mean Android could use a firm that the enterprise and bespoke hardware vendors can turn to for Android firmware, just as Red Hat, particularly in Linux’s early days of adoption, was the go-to firm for enterprise Linux. While other groups had Linux distros, and later firms added an enterprise push (e.g., Canonical), Red Hat was the first serious firm to say “we’re here for business, and will help ordinary consumers and developers some along the way”.

In my list of the possible entrants was:

It could be some new high-flying venture-backed startup, poaching a few engineers from Google and device manufacturers, and perhaps the ROM modding community, to serve as the core team.

Enter Cyanogen Inc..

As has been widely reported, many of the CyanogenMod team members garnered some venture capital backing and formed Cyanogen Inc., with an eye towards building a business around their Android ROM mod. The firm has been in existence since April, and their first major announcement was a partnership with Oppo to have CyanogenMod available for the new Oppo N1.

Will Cyanogen Inc. become Android’s Red Hat? Possibly.

Certainly, they have the capability. Not only do they have the technical chops, but one of their board members was co-founder of 3LM, a firm focused on enterprise security for Android devices. 3LM itself has had a rocky history, being acquried by Motorola Mobility, then apparently mothballed by Google after The Big G acquired Motorola Mobility. Cyanogen Inc. could be another vehicle for 3LM’s technology and intentions, or could simply leverage contacts in this space.

In the short term, the Cyanogen Inc. launch profile may result in some sticking points:

  • Launching what amounts to a stealth startup around a community-driven project is all but assured to ruffle feathers

  • License disputes, such as the GPL scuffle over the Focal camera app, will crop up over the next few months as Cyanogen Inc. sets up CyanogenMod to be licensed as it feels it needs

How much these sorts of things impact the launch, and to what extent they are indicative of underlying longer-term issues, remains to be seen. Certainly, plenty of firms have gone on to success with bigger structural issues, though.

From my standpoint, I just don’t know what they plan to do, as they have not announced much beyond the Oppo arrangement and a renewed emphasis on simplifying CyanogenMod installation. IMHO, becoming Android’s Red Hat implies a certain set of business models, and they may or may not elect to embark upon those.

Regardless, I certainly wish Cyanogen Inc. luck. Perhaps Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols was correct when he wrote:

In short, I see CyanogenMod actually helping to unify Android and potentially becoming a major Android player in its own right.

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