RIP, Cyanogen

Posted on December 26, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 13 Comments

RIP, Cyanogen

Cyanogen announced over the holiday weekend that it is shutting down. The firm was once seen as a potential inroad for Microsoft in mobile.

“As part of the ongoing consolidation of Cyanogen, all services and Cyanogen-supported nightly builds will be discontinued no later than 12/31/16,” Cyanogen announced Friday evening.

Cyanogen was once seen as a major alternative to Google in the Android space. That is, they forked the free version of Android and created an offshoot of that OS which was completely free, unlike the version Google sells to device makers.

So why do we care about that here? Because Cyanogen was once part of Microsoft’s mobile strategy: In April 2015, the software giant announced that it was partnering with Cyanogen to integrate Microsoft apps and services across its open Android OS. In September 2015, it even announced it would add Cortana.

If this had been successful, Microsoft might have had an interesting alternative future in which this free and open Android OS, called Cyanogenmod, formed the basis of a new way forward. And who knows? Microsoft might have even taken that and made its own Android OS, replacing Windows Mobile.

But that isn’t going to happen. As it turns out, Cyanogen has been in trouble financially pretty much forever. In July, the firm tried to deny these troubles, but starting last month it could no longer hide the issues, and it started laying off staff and consolidating.

Now, it’s over. In the good news department, sort of, work on Cyanogen will continue with a much smaller team under the name LineageOS.

“LineageOS will be a continuation of what CyanogenMod was,” the new team explains. “To quote Andy Rubin, this is the definition of open. A company pulling their support out of an open source project does not mean it has to die.”

True. But it’s also fair to say that LineageOS will almost certainly never achieve the hype or promise of CyanogenMod either. I suspect this will be just as successful as the Amiga or webOS in their own final chapters.

RIP, CyanogenMod. We barely knew you, but we will always wonder about what might have been.


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Comments (13)

13 responses to “RIP, Cyanogen”

  1. 2428

    Part of the problem was their own stupidity. They had a good thing going with One Plus, until they botched that deal by giving exclusive use to another party in India. One has to wonder how much of CyanogenMod success was due to the hype and success of One Plus. Once One Plus went their own OS the steam started to dissipate quickly for Cyanogen.

  2. 5675

    I'm one of these guy Paul makes fun of because I own a Lumia 950. For a variety of reasons (some good, others not as sound) I will have this phone for another 18 months. What harm could come to the UWP ecosystem by bringing the abandoned Android bridge to W10M? It wouldn't close the app gap, but I'd feel less stupid when I use my 950 to access a simple app only available in iOS and Android.

    • 2316

      plm Posted

      What harm could come to the UWP ecosystem by bringing the abandoned Android bridge to W10M?

      If the reasons for not resurrecting Astoria today are not insurmountable technical or legal problems, but fear of hurting UWP, I don't know what Microsoft is smoking.

      We need the option of Android apps on both PC and mobile (whatever Paul thinks).

      • 2525

        In reply to dvdwnd:

        Agreed. Astoria was pretty neat, and required pretty much zero effort from the developer. I guess legal concerns were the big hurdle and they don't want to publicise what those concerns were (don't telegraph your punches or those of your potential opponent) 

        • 214

          In reply to IanYates82:

          Yes - woulda, coulda, shoulda...

          I suspect Windows' move to ARM was the nail in the coffin... it provides so many alternate future paths MS can develop - and on the same hardware platform as the universe of Apps. 

  3. 2292

    It makes you wonder if there is any success in mobile except for Apple and Google. Cyanogen seem to give hope of another option carved out of Android, but it too did not live up to its promise.

    • 5554

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      Cyanogen's poor execution, mismanagement and ineptitude doesn't mean there's no room for anyone else in mobile. 

      Remember these are the arena-sized idiots that claimed they were "going to put a bullet through Google's head".

  4. 9542

    They should have stayed just a modding community in the first place. This was obvious from the very start, never made much sense. And MS partnering with company with less % in mobile market than themselves was a laugh right away as well. CyanogenMOD was a very nice MOD when Android was very young, but trying to make a business out of it was a fail.

  5. 5234

    Google doesn't sell Android.  Neither do they sell Google Mobile Services.  They do charge a hardware certification fee for devices bundling GMS, which was reported (second-hand) that a major OEM said had amounted to about $0.75/handset.

    There is no licensing fee for either.  Neither is there for AOSP, nor is there for Chrome OS.

    Microsoft charges device OEM's a license fee for Windows (not Windows Phone OS anymore, but let's be honest here: all incarnations of Windows Phone OS, including Windows 10 Mobile, are dead), PLUS a certification fee on top of that.  The only way they get out of licensing fees is if they build low-end machines in high volume (in the thousands per month, and restricted to such limitations as eMMC SSD's and minimal RAM allotments).  If they want to get out of certification fees, they have to buy licensing through the System Builder channel, which provides no volume discounts, and can amount to almost twice the license cost that top-tier OEM's pay.

  6. 2039

    In reply to plm:

    I personally believe there is no harm. Project Astoria apps can only run on devices with screen smaller than 7" and therefore ignores 95%, if not more, of Windows 10 user base. This isn't compelling replacement for developers wanting to target Windows as a platform. This is only a stop gap and I hope Microsoft reconsiders it. Phone being able to run UWP, Android and Win32 apps would be quite special.