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Yesterday was kind of a big day for Android. The long-running and extremely popular custom ROM family CyanogenMod has been incorporated into a company which plans to further the software into a bona fide platform. CyanogenMod founder Steve Kondik and extremely vocal CM team member Koushik Dutta (CTO and VP of Engineering for the new Cyanogen Inc, respectively) did what you're supposed to do whenever cool stuff happens: head to Reddit for an "Ask Me Anything" session. Here are some highlights from Kondik and Dutta's responses to the community's questions.

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The elephant in the room is hardware. When will there be new hardware that runs CyanogenMod off the shelf, as a sort of alternative to Sense/TouchWiz/whatever the hell LG is calling it this week? At present getting Cyanogen onto hardware sold directly to end-users is a long-term goal for the company, but it's definitely at the back of their minds. News broke that Cyanogen has at least one hardware partner already, and the company plans to reveal this partner (but probably not their plans) next week. The company's monetization strategy is focused on growing and strengthening Cyanogen as a platform, eventually licensing it to OEMs and providing support for business-oriented solutions. An extremely distant goal is building or commissioning Cyanogen-specific hardware and selling it directly to consumers.

In the meantime, Cyanogen will be focusing on making the experience as easy as possible. A big part of this will be the one-click installer apps for Android and Windows, which are scheduled to be announced in full detail next week. The plan is to support all possible hardware that can be unlocked. Devices without a legitimate, manufacturer-supplied bootloader unlock method may not be supported, because circumventing the bootloader could violate the DMCA or require jumping other nasty hurdles involving lawyers. All devices that are supported by CyanogenMod and can be unlocked by the user (all Nexus devices, most Samsung devices, HTC and Motorola phones included in their respective bootloader unlock programs, et cetera) should eventually be supported by the Cyanogen installer tool. Speaking on the subject of older hardware support, Kondik said they'll continue to support as much hardware as they can "until they have crossed the line where too many compromises are made in order to run the latest version." That's the same policy that the team has always had.

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Beyond that, Cyanogen will continue to develop its own apps and services as the company sees fit. a good example of this is the new the CyanogenMod Account tool. The team has plans for the latter in particular, including the ability to sync the myriad of CyanogenMod settings and customizations across devices tied to your account. According to Kondik, there are already "a number of new apps on the works."

But what about one of the core pillars of the Android experience: Google apps? Right now most ROMs including CyanogenMod are not released with the Google Play Store and the rest of Google's proprietary services installed due to copyright issues, instead being offered in a separate, flashable "Gapps" file. Though the company doesn't have anything to announce in that respect, they are working hard on a solution that fits with the new focus on ease of use for end users.

"No need to worry. We love Google services, and so do our users. Despite sensationalist headlines from earlier today, we feel we are an ally to Google, not a competitor," said Dutta. The company's only non-employee to grace the new Cyngn.com page is board member Tom Moss, the ex head of Business Development at Google. He may be able to help Cyanogen gain access to the Google Services Framework. According to the AMA, most of the technical hurdles involved in Compatibility Test Suite have already been passed. For now users will probably have to rely on the old Gapps model in some form or fashion.

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Lastly, Kondik and Dutta spoke on a huge point of contention for the Android community and the open source movement in general: keeping the project open. Cyanogen is taking an approach that mirrors Google at this point - the core CyanogenMod builds will remain open source, while proprietary software (like backend solutions not immediately related to the core of Android) will be closed. Kondik wished to express that this is because of the nature of incorporation, and in most cases, is done simply to build the company's value and protect its investment. "Our strength is that we have a strong open source community behind us... the core of the project (hardware support, community contributions, etc.) will always remain open source," said Dutta.

When asked about using a project largely created on free contributions, Kondik mentioned that they have already hired both prominent CM contributors and outside developers. Cyanogen Inc. is already employing eight people who started as developers on CyanogenMod. The company is hiring engineers and designers right now. "Arbitrarily paying money to community members is a really complicated thing. I'd rather have them come work for us."

Expect more news on Cyanogen Inc. and CyanogenMod next week.

Source: Reddit, image credit to Koushik Dutta

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

    Imagine that, Samsung or HTC etc could actually pay CyanogenMod to make their phones awesome...

    • jammer

      Samsung probably won't do that, but who knows...

    • coversnails

      OEM's won't pay a company to remove all their extra money making bloat from their phones.

      Potentially they could offer an upgrade to CM on old phones they are no longer updating, but then again I'm sure they'd prefer customers to pay a new one instead.

      • ConCal

        True, but if the customer finds a CM phone more desirable then they will sell more phones.

        • The_Chlero

          That's the work of the advertisements. To lure customers into buying a new expensive one instead of wanting a cheap phone with a powerful OS.

        • Mike Reid

          In the US and some other countries, most people buy/rent phones from a carrier.

          Carriers won't touch CM.

  • Guillaume ‘XpLoDWilD’

    So Focal now has been developed by Cyanogen Inc? Great. Thanks.

    • Sebastiano

      If you read this piece, it looks like Focal is closed-source as well. Not fair, I'd say.

      • Guillaume ‘XpLoDWilD’

        It's my work. It's GPL. They don't have ANY legal rights to do so.

        • Sebastiano

          I know, man. That was my mis-worded point :) It's yours, it's FOSS, and this won't change, since you GPL'ed it. It's just that this article is quite imprecise. Steve and Koushik never said they made Focal...

          • Guillaume ‘XpLoDWilD’

            Yeah sorry, I'm a little bit upset about it, I was just stating the facts :). Either the phrasing in the article is a little bit wrong, or they try to bury it on purpose to not allow me to say something. Good way to treat contributors.

          • Sebastiano

            No problem, mate. And, thanks a lot for it! Can't wait to try it out -- I never found the chance to, but I'm definitely going to.

          • Christopher Robert

            Have you been offered to work for them yet? Maybe you should just join the team.

        • Brian

          Just a poorly written article. Steve or Koush never mentioned Focal being closed source. It was just speculation from other commenters on reddit.

          • William

            The most reliable news source. Reddit.

        • Testraindrop

          I see already where this is going, now I guess most of the previous CM contributers will question their future engagement for CM as others now will try to make money from it, while they get nothing.

          I see many good guys moving away from CM, as sad as it is, they have every right to do so like XpLoDWilD.

        • Jachym Kokesh Lukes

          I hope more involved developers will raise their voices.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      Sorry, Guillaume, that's my mistake. It's been removed.

      • Guillaume ‘XpLoDWilD’

        No problem - the "mistake" has been made on other news websites as well so it can be confusing.

  • Thomas’

    Sadly, my Galaxy Tab 10.1 already "crossed the line where too many compromises are made in order to run the latest version".

  • Larry Laginess

    I want to see closer photos of those posters. "Feature Creep KILLS" ... that's good stuff

  • William

    The more i hear about this, the more I don't like it :.

  • Gab

    "Tom Moss, the ex head of Business Development at Google. He may be able to help Cyanogen pass Google's Compatibility Test Suite"

    Sorry but this is simply wrong. No one needs help to pass the CTS, it's just a test anyone can run. He may help them to get insight on the whole process and get in contact with the right people.

    • Brian

      Another example of a poorly written article. Tom Moss was said to be able to help them with licensing and contracting of the proprietary google apps / framework because its typically only licensed to OEMs not software companies. He's not there to help them pass CTS.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      The AMA mentioned Moss helping them get access to Google Services Framework, which I assumed was included in CTS. The article has been updated to be more precise.

  • Beavis

    I can't imagine caring less. CyanogenMod is fine if you want a stripped down AOSP experience with lots of advanced user settings thrown in. It's not going to find much love among the vast majority of consumers who want an easy to use, attractive user interface.

    • http://www.JWesCampbell.com/ Wes Campbell

      I have to disagree... CyanogenMod is the closest thing to stock that a Samsung, LG, or HTC user is ever going to get (minus Nexii).
      In some instances, touchwiz, LG crapware, and sense are harder and more complex for the average user.

      • Beavis

        Right. Most consumers do not want stock AOSP. There's a reason all of the big phone manufacturers skin their phones (TouchWiz, Motoblur, etc). They are smart enough to recognize the fact that AOSP is bland and boring, as is CyanogenMod.

        • Cherokee4Life

          Right... because nobody buys Nexus devices. And no company would be stupid enough to sell a "Google Edition" phone because NOBODY wants it or will ever buy it.

          You do realize why phones and tablets get skins.. right?

        • ConCal

          OEMs are just trying to differentiate. They know if all handsets ran the exact same OS, it would turn the phone market into a commodity and thus drive down the price if hardware. It has very little to do with their view of ASOP.

    • vs8

      You're so wrong in so many levels.

      CyanogeMod is not a stripped down AOSP experience with a bunch of settings thrown in.

      It has many features AOSP doesn't, many of them small usability features that make using Android a much better experience. It has some big features too, like Focal, a better version of Talk, its own file manager and Music Player.

      It does have advanced features, hidden just like Developer Options.

      CyanogenMod is extremely simple and minimal when you first install it.

      • Beavis

        You start off by saying I'm wrong and then you essentially concede that CM is basically AOSP with a bunch of extras (that most consumers don't care about and won't take the time to use). Thanks.

        • vs8

          You originally stated extra settings.

          CyanogenMod has extra features.

          And many, many people have gone trough the trouble of installing it. To be precise, 8 million people have opted to register. The actual number of users is even higher.

          • lolpoopROM

            registration =/= continued use. i assure you that many, many people have installed CM, not liked the fit feel or functionality, and went back to stock or another rom. CM just simply is not that great, and unfortunately due to copyright is unable to make use of awesome functionality that is only available in stock (or in non-stock flashable form for rom authors who are good enough to carve out the features and make them flashable.)
            CM fanboys, almost as bad as apple fanboys. literally 'lol'-ing.

          • vs8

            You win, your research and data shows you're right. You have definitive evidence and your statement is invincible.

          • PhoenixPath

            Sheesh...try to poke a few holes in someone's religion and they get all upptiy.

          • vs8

            I wouldn't have a problem if your argument was strong and insightful. But you're pulling data out of your ass.

            You clearly don't know what you're talking about. You're the typical Internet idiot.

          • PhoenixPath

            Oh, the irony....

            Look at my alias. Look at the alias of the person you've been in a "discussion" with.

            That's right, Twitchy McRanterson. He ain't me.

            "You're the typical Internet idiot."

            ...indeed. Delicious Irony.

          • vs8

            Throwaway account just for trolling...

          • PhoenixPath

            Mine or yours?

            I just glanced at your numbers. Damn near equal to mine.

            Yeah. Helps if you aren't pulling data out of your ass indeed.

            But I forget....you're a "believer"...

          • Cherokee4Life

            true Registration does not equal continued use. So for argument sake lets do a little math. 8 million people "registered" and lets assume that EVERYBODY that installed CM registered. So there are 8 millions installs we will say.

            Out of those 8 million people say that 25% of those people hated it and uninstalled it. and another 25% of those people have CM on 2 devices so really there would be 4 million unique people running CM on the devices they own.

            So according to you 4 million people install a OS and that makes it "not that great" and that those 4 million people apparently know how to flash ROM and would then know what options are out there as far as ROMS goes and have decided to stick with the "stripped down AOSP experience" and 'unattractive user interface'

            Please don't bring your one sided trolling here and speak without knowing your facts. I am not saying CM is the best of the best and they can do no wrong. But don't speak on behalf of 4+ million people and think you know what smartphones users like or dislike.

          • Björn Lundén

            Regarding your comment about registation vs. continued use:

            Sure, it counts the number of devices, not the number of users. We do however purge inactive devices roughly every 90 days as stated in the stats page.

            "Devices that have not checked in within the last 90 days are periodically removed from the database."

    • h4rr4r

      Far better than Sense or Blur or other such stupid crap.

    • Guest

      There are SOO many little mods/enhancements that a CyanogenMOD ROM may have that even stock AOSP does not have which makes it worth considering, even for the vast majority. It's not just the advanced user settings.

  • kpjimmy

    Hey was this the result of the Google lunch the Koush had a few weeks back? :)

    • Lucas Laws

      No. Koush mentioned that in the AMA. They asked him to come work for them, he said no and let it slip than Cyanogen was Incorporated now.

      • Plan C

        ...and then get bought out by Google.

  • warcaster

    Despite sensationalist headlines from earlier today, we feel we are an ally to Google, not a competitor," said Dutta

    Ouch. A burn at TheVerge? ("fork" in the road, etc)

  • companyemails

    I love the idea of a simple installer. There is a Transformer prime in my house that I would love to run CM on.

  • scot

    If OEM's have to pay Microsoft royalties, would CyanogenMod have to do the same?

    • enoch861

      I guess we'll find out soon, won't we?

  • johhn

    Guillaume 'XpLoDWilD' will you keep developing for CM?

  • Cherokee4Life

    CyanogenMod.. The only company that has pictures of their employees on their phones and they are probably actually working and its okay!

  • ConCal

    Pure speculation: I think they are waiting to use crowdfunding for future hardware. (Like Ubuntu phone)

  • Jose Torres

    Why do I have a bad feeling that the OEM's are not going to like this AT A L L?

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    This article is not as bad as the BBC report which claims CM are "creating an alternative to Android" :/