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.