Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has met with the founders of open source Android software company Cyanogen, The Information reports, citing a source who had been briefed by Microsoft.
Cyanogen is the company behind the somewhat popular CyanogenMod software for Android phones. The open-source modification replaces the Android operating system with a range of extra features and customisation options.
At the moment, this type of operating system is of primary interest to geeks interested in open-source adventurism.
However, if the Cyanogen operating system is better than Android — and if it came preloaded on a decent phone — it might take off. Every single Android app works on Cyanogen, so Cyanogen users can get the best of both open-source worlds.
In other words, where Android is “open source,” Cyanogen is “even more open source-ier.” It is thus a confusing beast: Cyanogen is both a threat and an addition to Google’s Android ecosystem.
The Information is also reporting that Amazon, Samsung and Yahoo are also interested in either partnering with Cyanogen to bring CyanogenMod to smartphones, or outright acquiring the company.
Cyanogen has previously attracted support during its series B fundraising round, taking $US23 million from investors such as Chinese internet giant Tencent and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Speaking at the time of Cyanogen’s series B round, Andreessen Horowitz partner Peter Levine explained why the company was such an attractive investment prospect.
“Today, tens of millions of devices are running Cyanogen worldwide, and we believe that CM has the opportunity to become one of the world’s largest mobile operating systems. As past history suggests, companies such as Microsoft and RedHat have done exceedingly well by being independent of hardware, and we believe that this trend will accelerate in the mobile world.”
Partnerships with smartphone manufacturers are an important target of Cyanogen’s plan to bring its software to more users. In August it was reported that the company had hired Facebook Product Marketing employee Sid Murlidhar to lead third-party integration.
Microsoft would be a curious parent for a software company with its entire product embedded in the Android operating system. In July, Microsoft announced it would end its production of Nokia X phones, which ran a customised version of Android. The presence of Android in Microsoft’s smartphone range was described by a source as “embarrassing.”
However, Microsoft has a number of patents used in Android and earns about $US2 billion in revenue from them every year — so Microsoft does have a financial interest in a healthy Android ecosystem even if it doesn’t want to make the phones itself.
Amazon, Yahoo and Samsung present a more obvious destination for Cyanogen. Smartphone manufacturers looking to preload Google apps on their devices have previously had to allow the tech giant control over both the hardware and operating system of the device.
Cyanogen’s open source design eradicates this agreement, leaving smartphone manufacturers free to preload apps without Google’s interference.