Microsoft investing in aftermarket Android operating system, CyanogenMod

Cyanogen wants to wrest Android control from Google, and Microsoft may help


Microsoft has its own smartphone platform with Windows Phone, obviously, but with a mere 3% market share compared to juggernauts like Android and iOS, the company may be getting antsy.

Maybe that’s why Microsoft is reportedly part of a US$70 million (about £47 million) investment round in Cyanogen, the company formed to spread the use of aftermarket Android operating system, CyanogenMod.

No doubt, CyanogenMod has its fervent fans, along with a legion of volunteer testers working on it, but Cyanogen is looking beyond tweaked Google software. It’s pushing hard into India, where cheap Android One phones are catching on, and coming preinstalled on devices like the OnePlus One. Just last week, CEO Kirt McMaster said at an event, “We’re going to take Android away from Google,” and he plans for Cyanogen to be independent of Google's whims within three to five years.

Where does Microsoft fit into this? Are we looking at a future of forked Android devices running familiar Windows services? Anything is possible, we suppose, especially with the “more open” Microsoft bringing more of its apps and services to other platforms.

We suspect it’s more a strategic investment for more. Cyanogen is catching fire and has now raised about $100 million (£66 million) in funding to pursue its plans. But it faces a daunting road ahead, because without Google services (and the Play Store in particular), Android isn’t quite as complete an experience. Android was supposed to be open source, but Google’s insistence on its services being used as defaults on devices has ruffled some feathers in recent years.

There’s upside here, and it’s probably worth whatever share Microsoft put into that $70 million pool. If Cyanogen starts getting serious traction and convinces more and more users to move away from traditional Android, then it could disrupt Google’s hold on the smartphone market. Which could mean more eyes on Microsoft's mobile services rather than standard, built-in ones.

At the very least, it’s probably worth a little cash for Microsoft to try messing with Google a bit, no?

[Sources: The Wall Street Journal, SlashGear]

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