A recent $70 million round of funding has plaes a "high hundreds of millions" range valuation on Cyanogen, an Android-based mobile operating system that has set it as a goal to take Android away from Google. WSJ writes Microsoft was one of the minority investors in this new round of equity financing and notes the financing could grow further with other strategic investors that have expressed interest in Cyanogen in an attempt to diminish Google's control over Android.
Cyanogen is used by over 50 million mobile devices, it started as a small open source project in 2008 and was turned into a commercial product in September 2013. CyanogenMod gained popularity as users flashed their phones to this alternative OS to get rid of bloatware, receive more frequent security updates, get extra features and better performance. The firm is currently working on deals with hardware makers to install the software on their devices, touting Cyanogen as a restriction-free and improved version of Android.
Android was intended as an “open source” operating system that hardware makers can deploy in their devices for free. Yet Google has frustrated manufacturers in recent years by requiring them to feature Google apps and set Google search as the default for users, in exchange for access to the search engine, YouTube, or the millions of apps in its Play Store.
Such restrictions make it harder for apps that compete with Google’s to win distribution on Android devices. For Microsoft, that means less exposure for its Bing search engine, which is up against Google search. It also could limit growth of other Microsoft software products.
Cyanogen offers an alternate version of the Android mobile operating system free of such restrictions. The 80-person company claims to have a volunteer army of 9,000 software developers working on its own version of Android.