Startup Cyangoen has big plans to create its own version of Android that’s more open and flexible that Google’s. CEO Kurt McMaster has previously said that he wants to take Android “away” from Google.
In fact, McMaster says that in about five years, his platform will likely be capable of taking more than a quarter of Android’s global market share.
But in order to do that, the company has to scale — and it’s made two key hires to do just that.
Cyanogen announced on Wednesday that Stephen Lawler and Karthick Iyer have joined the company. Before joining Cyanogen as its senior vice president of worldwide engineering in July, Lawler was Amazon’s vice president of direct traffic. Prior to that, he worked at Microsoft for 15 years until September 2014, where he most recently held the CTO title for Microsoft’s Bing Maps division.
Iyer, Cyanogen’s new vice president of global systems, comes from Qualcomm, which is where he worked since 1997. Most recently, Iyer was responsible for being Qualcomm’s global Android engineering lead. He was responsible for leading a team of 500+ engineers in the US, China, and India, with the goal of ensuring that Qualcomm’s processors works with multiple types of Android devices around the world.
This is one reason McMaster believes Iyer and Lawler could really benefit Cyanogen — he needs to scale Cyanogen’s software so that the company can make sure it gets on more devices.
“I could probably take in 14% of global Android volume this year,” McMaster said to Business Insider. “But I don’t have the system scale to bring up that many devices today.”
McMaster explained that it’s necessary to scale because it can be difficult to get Cyanogen to run properly on devices since they all have different internal components. Iyer’s background could be especially useful for this, since he previously led a team that developed Android solutions for chipsets.
“[Phones] might ship with a certain Qualcomm chipset, but every device has a difference camera module and a different screen,” McMaster said. “Everything requires different drivers. Every time you bring up Android on a device you have to do specific optimizations.”
Cyanogen is the company behind CyanogenMod, a modified version of Android that allows access to certain features you wouldn’t get on Google’s Android. Until this point, it’s really only appealed to devoted Android fans that like to tinker with their phones rather than mainstream users. But now, McMaster’s team is building a more mainstream version of Cyanogen that it hopes will steal some of the spotlight from Google’s Android and iOS.
McMaster has even gone so far as to say he thinks companies like Samsung will be toast in five years because they don’t have the ability to customise and cater to various regions the way Cyanogen does.
But to get there, Cyanogen needs to scale, which has been one of the challenges as it transitions to a larger and more mainstream audience.
“Being able to grow and scale a team of really smart engineers…that’s really the biggest challenge,” he said. “As a startup you obviously have to focus and prioritise. But if we’re looking at the volume gain Android, obviously that means you’re going to be bringing up multiple Android devices at a time to reach that volume goal.”