CyanogenMod team raises $7m; aims to become larger than Windows Phone

It all started four years ago when one man - username 'cyanogen' on the XDA Developers forums - created a custom ROM for the first commercially available Android handset, the T-Mobile G1 (known also as the HTC 'Dream'). From that modest beginning, CyanogenMod quickly grew in popularity, to become one of the most popular and well known distributions of custom Android firmware. 

Today, there's an entire team of 17 people dedicated to developing it, and they've got big ambitions. They're not just reaching for the stars with wild dreams either - having established themselves as a company, Cyanogen Inc., nine months ago, they've since secured $7m in venture capital funding to help realise their vision. 

Their mission statement is simple: to bring the Cyanogen experience to everyone. The good news for users who have grown to love CyanogenMod is that the company doesn't plan to abandon its principles now that it's gone all corporate: 

Our goals today are straightforward: 

  • Organize, lead, and support our community
  • Create amazing user experience centered around how YOU work
  • Security solutions that really work
  • Stay committed to build the features our users need
  • No junk 
  • Constant updates
  • Available on everything, to everyone"

An essential part of the process will be to remove the barriers that have held back those who might have otherwise chosen to install CyanogenMod. The biggest problem to tackle has been the installation process. While it's increasingly common for devices to be unlocked - or at least easily rootable - there's no consistency across the Android ecosystem, with policies varying wildly between devices and manufacturers. Today, for example, Sony warned users against rooting the new Xperia Z1, as to do so would prevent the handset's 20.7MP camera from working at all. 

A more streamlined installation process will no doubt help in the company's aspirations to expand usage. The Verge reports that Cyanogen plans to introduce a "one-click installer for Windows", dramatically reducing the complexity of installations for non-power users. More excitingly, though, Cyanogen is poised to announce a partnership with a device manufacturer, which could be revealed as early as next week. 

Cyanogen currently has eight million users - officially, at least. The company's CEO, Kirt McMaster, told The Verge that the real number could be three times higher than that, as not all users elect to share data with Cyanogen. "There's been a lot of talk around who's going to be the third dominant mobile computing platform," he said. "Windows Phone would probably be number three now. If you look at what our actual user base is, we might be equal to or greater than that."

With over 1.5 million Android devices being activated every day, Cyanogen's growth potential is massive, and the promise of freedom from the lethargic update schedules and restrictive lockdown policies of carriers and manufacturers is seductive. The company's aim of securing third place behind 'mainstream' Android and iOS may seem ambitious, but given what Cyanogen has managed to achieve so far - with little more than the passion and dedication of its team - we're looking forward to seeing what they can do with some real resources behind them. 

Source: Cyanogen / The Verge | Images via Cyanogen

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Shadrack said,
So if Cyanogenmod becomes larger than Windows Phone, does that mean it is no longer counted as part of Android or what?

I think it'll have to be factored into those estimates of how many Android phones are using which version of the OS. Also, it could be a selling feature for high end phones - "pre-installed with Cyanogen!"

Yeah, CyanogenMod is awesome, but they can keep dreaming if they think they'll ever be on my phone. They're more than welcome to continue powering my tablet for the next 100 years though.

More excitingly, though, Cyanogen is poised to announce a partnership with a device manufacturer, which could be revealed as early as next week.

So, not Samsung then? It could never possibly ever be Samsung?

As a former Galaxy S user, CyanogenMod was always a "Beta" mod for me. Every single release had some kind of major bug, either with the battery or simply the stability/reliability of the phone.
Haven't used CM since version 10, I kind of miss it, but don't dare to install it anymore.

So, they're essentially making their own Android distro? Fine by me. Bigger than my beloved Windows Phone? I think they're aiming too low, but that's a good goal. They're not held back by having to make their own hardware!

I think this is great. Certainly tons better than a fork like Amazon has done. I hope they're viable as a business, and force bother OEMs and carriers to re-evaluate their crapware policies... Learn from he past and how crapware bloat undermined the PC market!

Call it whatever you want, it won't work because google will block YouTube from this platform. /S

Google, you got a back stabber on your six

I hope this means they will put out roms that are fully functional for devices other than the nexus line. all other roms have broken bits and pieces and have had them for over a year now. heres to hoping this gives them the tools and contacts to put out a fully working rom.

So this isn't a new OS?
Just a better marketed custom rom for android?

If it still is going to be a custom rom. How can they claim to try and be more popular than Windows Phone? If it was a new OS then it would be comparable.

It is like someone saying their theme is more popular than Windows Phone because it is used on quite a few android phones.

He talks about it being on "everything". Look at the installer image. There's iPhones, iPads, Windows Phone and Windows tablets. Windows devices wouldn't surprise me since it's been done (HD2 for example). Now if they get it on the Apple devices, that'll turn some heads lol

Sorry but this is a MOD for Android - if they were to invent a brand new OS from scratch (ala Firefox OS, Ubuntu, etc.) then come talk to me but piggy-backing on top of Android and beating your chest is nothing more than publicity stunt at this point. Not trying to bash their efforts though - that was pretty much the first thing I would do when I used to use Android phones is to put CM or a variation of it for my particular device but I don't know what else to say about this...

You know that neither Firefox OS nor Ubuntu are brand new OS's?

Take Ubuntu for example. It's "piggybacking" (as you so nicely put it) on Debian. You can pretty much compare this to how CyanogenMod "piggybacks" on Android. There are a plethora of completely new features and interface options not present in AOSP.

Jub Fequois said,
You know that neither Firefox OS nor Ubuntu are brand new OS's?

Take Ubuntu for example. It's "piggybacking" (as you so nicely put it) on Debian. You can pretty much compare this to how CyanogenMod "piggybacks" on Android. There are a plethora of completely new features and interface options not present in AOSP.

By that logic Android isn't an OS nor is iOS or OS X, however, we all know how accurate that this. Android has it's own apps, OS X has it's own apps so does iOS, Firefox OS, etc. Ok, Ubuntu is a variant of Linux so most Linux apps run on it but that's not the case with any of the others mentioned. CyanogenMOD runs Android apps, Android driver, Android kernel (MODified but still an Android kernel) so in my book it's not it's own OS.

that's cute and all but ultimately they should instead fork android and divorce google, then they may stand a chance as an OS that can provide an alternative to the google controlled OS. Everybody wants an alternative that is truly open, but FF OS and Ubuntu don't seem like the right approach since they are starting over far too behind.

splitting android and creating a truly open platform not dominated by google's agenda would be the best outcome for the consumer. I'm sure google will hate it though

There seems to be a simple model for revenue here. They license the OS to OEMs that don't want to work with Google anymore - notably at the moment that would be HTC and Samsung. Both of which have already made investments in TouchWiz and Sense that didn't work out. Makes a ton of sense for them to license CyanogenMOD and try to compete directly with Google who would never do that.

Christopher Bruscato said,
There seems to be a simple model for revenue here. They license the OS to OEMs that don't want to work with Google anymore - notably at the moment that would be HTC and Samsung. Both of which have already made investments in TouchWiz and Sense that didn't work out. Makes a ton of sense for them to license CyanogenMOD and try to compete directly with Google who would never do that.

Sure. But I don't see how they can license Android.

airedwin said,

Sure. But I don't see how they can license Android.

Indeed, CM is based on AOSP... as open source software, dont all derivatives have to remain open source too?

Spicoli said,
But why? What do they offer that would make me want to do that?

Security. Cyanogenmod is taking it seriously and is beginning to implement controls such as Privacy Guard. And it doesn't stop there, we will see a number of changes come now that SELinux is being woven in.

Probably just as important, Cyanogenmod is continuously being improved. So many phones are running older versions of Android because the users aren't given any other (easy, non-technical) choice. Once Cyanogenmod is installed, updates are a breeze, and doing so can breathe new life into an otherwise aging device.

Spicoli said,
I see no motivation for your average phone users to use this. This looks like a hobbyist thing.

You mean the same average phone users who; A) constantly complain they are not running the latest version of android? B) moan their phone is full of bloatware? C) worry that their phone manufacture has not patched a 0-day exploit or even one that has been known for some time?

With Cyanogenmod users get a version of android that has zero bloat, that is pretty much always the latest version and that gets very rapid security updates. Not to mention the extra features it adds over standard stock roms. There are plenty of reason why even an average user would benefit from CM.

Bamsebjørn said,
That is, until some company decides to deliver handsets with Cyanogen installed by default.

There were rumors, with Cyanogen himself hinting it was true, that Samsung thought about it. Keep in mind he left Cyanogenmod for a little while to work at Samsung.

this is nonsense... its not an os, its a mod
i think maybe farmville has a larger user base than windows phone and they have something in common with cyanogen: they arent an os either

this is only a publicity stunt, as is always with these things

morden said,

i think maybe farmville has a larger user base than windows phone and they have something in common with cyanogen: they arent an os either

well it's a bit more than a mod to be fair, it's the same as htc's sense & samsungs's touchwiz. Also while all the negativity....

Som said,
well it's a bit more than a mod to be fair, it's the same as htc's sense & samsungs's touchwiz.

At the end of the day it's still Android. "Mod" is even in the name.

Som said,
well it's a bit more than a mod to be fair, it's the same as htc's sense & samsungs's touchwiz. Also while all the negativity....
Which means that at best it's number 5 or 6 then as both of them will have more users than CyanogenMod!
It's negativity to them using complete bulsh** statistics.
Nothing against CyanogenMod but they are talking nonsense on this subject.

No, it's not nonsense, CyanogenMod is an OS (i quoted a part from their wiki a bit up, where they state this themselves). It's based on AOSP with lots of stuff added and also some removed. Support for more hardware etc. Or are you implying it's nonsense to call Ubuntu an OS just because it's based on Debian?

Okay, so then since Galaxy phones sells millions every quarter, I guess the biggest Mobile OS is TouchWiz then? And the only phones running Android is all the Nexus devices then right?

fobban said,
No, TouchWiz is a front-end touch interface.

And CyanogenMod is just Android with some tweaks... what's your point?

Fact of the matter is that this is Android, not a separate OS in its own right.

fobban said,
No, it's not nonsense, CyanogenMod is an OS (i quoted a part from their wiki a bit up, where they state this themselves). It's based on AOSP with lots of stuff added and also some removed. Support for more hardware etc. Or are you implying it's nonsense to call Ubuntu an OS just because it's based on Debian?
Well, actually I'd say that Ubuntu is NOT an OS. Linux (and nor is Debian). They are both Linux.

fobban said,
No, it's not nonsense, CyanogenMod is an OS (i quoted a part from their wiki a bit up, where they state this themselves). It's based on AOSP with lots of stuff added and also some removed. Support for more hardware etc. Or are you implying it's nonsense to call Ubuntu an OS just because it's based on Debian?

well you just ate your own bullet... ubuntu and debian are both linux and you call them distributions, distros

Blackberry, Apple, now this... A lot of people taking aim at Windows Phone.

They're running scared, starting to wonder,
can they survive Nokia Rolling Thunder?

Enron said,
Blackberry, Apple, now this... A lot of people taking aim at Windows Phone.

They're running scared, starting to wonder,
can they survive Nokia Rolling Thunder?

Or may be because saying bigger than Android or Apple is too unrealistic..

bigger than Windows Phone = dooable.

Uplift said,

Or may be because saying bigger than Android or Apple is too unrealistic..

bigger than Windows Phone = dooable.

Only this isn't an OS. What if I said I'll make a Start Menu addon for Windows 8 and say I'm expecting it to be bigger than Linux?

Enron said,

Only this isn't an OS. What if I said I'll make a Start Menu addon for Windows 8 and say I'm expecting it to be bigger than Linux?

Does it matter what it is, they fall under a similar category... If it's installed on more Android devices than there is Windows devices then it's succeeded in being bigger?

Uplift said,

Does it matter what it is, they fall under a similar category... If it's installed on more Android devices than there is Windows devices then it's succeeded in being bigger?

Of course it matters.

Uplift said,
Does it matter what it is, they fall under a similar category... If it's installed on more Android devices than there is Windows devices then it's succeeded in being bigger?

It's still Android.. why would it be categorized as a different OS when it's not? It's already bigger.

Enron said,
Blackberry, Apple, now this... A lot of people taking aim at Windows Phone.

They're running scared, starting to wonder,
can they survive Nokia Rolling Thunder?


If history will repeat itself... absolutely. The original Rolling Thunder operation was not really a success, was it?

Fritzly said,

If history will repeat itself... absolutely. The original Rolling Thunder operation was not really a success, was it?

G.I. Joe's was, and that's what I was referring to.

Enron said,

Only this isn't an OS. What if I said I'll make a Start Menu addon for Windows 8 and say I'm expecting it to be bigger than Linux?


CyanogenMod is an operating system.

Enron said,

Ok, and spaghetti is a vegetable.

OK, I'll help you (quote from their wiki).

CyanogenMod, based on Android, is a full-fledged operating system, just like Windows, OS X, or Linux are on laptop computers.

Comparing it to a start menu addon... fail.

fobban said,

OK, I'll help you (quote from their wiki).

It's a modification to an OS. Last I checked, they didn't create Android. Or are you going to tell me it's not Android? I could go and change a few things and make my own distribution of Linux. Sure it'd be a working operating system, but I'm not smart enough to create one from scratch.

Enron said,

It's a modification to an OS. Last I checked, they didn't create Android. Or are you going to tell me it's not Android?


Of course it's Android, it's based on AOSP. Are you saying Ubuntu isn't an operating system because it's based off of Debian?

Enron said,
Blackberry, Apple, now this... A lot of people taking aim at Windows Phone.

They're running scared, starting to wonder,
can they survive Nokia Rolling Thunder?

No one is running scared. They are just going after the small fish first and if successful, they will put their eyes on the bigger fish.

Makes sense.

Uplift said,

Does it matter what it is, they fall under a similar category... If it's installed on more Android devices than there is Windows devices then it's succeeded in being bigger?

It's _NOT_ a separate OS. It is one of the many variations of Android. Besides, $7M of capital is peanuts

Enron said,
Blackberry, Apple, now this... A lot of people taking aim at Windows Phone.

They're running scared, starting to wonder,
can they survive Nokia Rolling Thunder?

its easy to make fun of windows phone, since its a big joke in first place.

Enron said,
Blackberry, Apple, now this... A lot of people taking aim at Windows Phone.

They're running scared, starting to wonder,
can they survive Nokia Rolling Thunder?

No, I wouldn't say they are running scared. Up until now, CM wasn't a commercial venture, and from what I can gather here it will still be provided free for most devices, as long as Android phones sell CM will have a market, and Android phones are still outselling WP devices by a very big margin.

This is just about setting realistic targets, WP is the smallest player in the market which makes it an attainable short term goal. Given that CM started as the work of a single hobbyist hacking together ROMs for the T-Mobile G1, what they have achieved is truly incredible.

Enron said,

G.I. Joe's was, and that's what I was referring to.


Ah,.... The generational gap! I only played, and loved, the original GI Joe with all his equipments; I even had his airplane that my mother bought for me in the US.
As for "Rolling thunder" I was referring to the original campaign: the one ordered by the Johnson administration in the mid-sixties'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Rolling_Thunder

CyanogenMod is not an operating system, it's a Mod to an existing operating system, it's clearly stated in it's name CyanogenMOD. It's like saying Ubuntu isn't linux, it is.

fobban said,

Of course it's Android, it's based on AOSP. Are you saying Ubuntu isn't an operating system because it's based off of Debian?

A better analogy would be Ubuntu vs. Kubuntu. Android IS the OS that they base their mod from. This means that the Cyanogen Mod is the Android operating system modded to their specifications. You are splitting hairs by pointing out that it is an OS. We know it does operate the phone, but without Android there would be no Cyanogen Mod, just as without Linux there would be no Ubuntu (insert your favorite linux distro here.) People stating that it is "not an OS," are pointing out that its just a distro of Android and not a stand-alone project.

I've used CM 10.1 on my GS3...so much better in so many ways, but a few critical issues prevented my from staying with it...I suspect that's been resolved by now and their philosophy and update schedule are right in line with what many want.

sadly a lot of those issues havent been fixed and unless they start putting out the same level of quality they do for the nexus line they wont succeed. Too many things are broken or not working as well as a rom running TouchWiz or Sense. Camera is still wonky, bluetooth issues, data is slow compared to stock rom, spotty reception, the list goes on and on. Hopefully this gives them access to something they didnt have before and results in fully functional roms for devices other than the nexus line

Hahaiah said,
I've used CM 10.1 on my GS3...so much better in so many ways, but a few critical issues prevented my from staying with it...I suspect that's been resolved by now and their philosophy and update schedule are right in line with what many want.

They just need the chance to build a reliable team that won't have to make compromises, this is what they needed to get around and help the community.

Using CM 10.2 nightlies on SGS3 as my daily driver, and have only positive feedback to say. Stable, fast and bloat free.