These Eight Words Should Send A Chill Down Google's Spine

Larry Page, Google co-founder and CEO speaks during the opening keynote at the Google I/O developers conference at the Moscone Center on May 15, 2013 in San Francisco, California (Photo: Getty)

“We’re going to take Android away from Google.”

Those eight words come from Kirt McMaster, CEO of Cyanogen, a company that’s building a modified version of Android. He spoke with The Wall Street Journal last week.

They should send a chill down Google’s spine.

Since Android is open source, companies can take the code and tweak Android to make it distinctly their own.

For instance, Google’s partners such as Samsung and HTC are able to layer their own software over the plain version of Android to promote their own apps and services.

There are also a few forked versions of Android — i.e. a completely different mobile software that’s based on Android, but may not include Google’s apps and services or the Google Play Store.

Amazon has it’s own forked version of Android that powers its Fire tablets and phone.

For the most part, these companies have done little to change Google’s control over Android. But Cyanogen might be different. It now has $US100 million in funding, with $US70 million reportedly coming from Microsoft.

Cyanogen makes Android better. It’s cleaner, the software updates more often, and Chinese companies have been using it more and more. If Cyanogen takes off, it would wrest away some control of Android.

Google has some clue about this. The company may be taking steps to prevent this by placing tighter restrictions on contracts with its partners, according to The Information’s Amir Efrati. In September, he reported that Google’s updated Android contracts mandate that partners place more of the company’s apps on the home screen’s of their phones. As part of the new contracts, Google would also be more strict about the way its partners customise their phones in order to keep the experience consistent across most Android products.

Regardless of whether or not this is true, McMaster’s comments show that at least one company is serious about cutting in on Google’s 85% ownership of the smartphone market.

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