This is why Microsoft cuddled up to Cyanogen, the startup trying to take Android 'away from' Google

One of the more interesting things Microsoft has done under CEO Satya Nadella is its partnership with Cyanogen, a startup that makes a very popular alternative version of Android.

Cyanogen had previously said it wanted to “take Android away from Google.”

And it’s making progress. Cyanogen is now being used by more than 50 million devices, Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Global Business Development, told attendees Wednesday at Business Insider’s Ignition conference in New York.

For a while, the rumour was that Microsoft was going to buy Cyanogen and finally dive headlong into the Android operating system market.

Then rumour was that Microsoft was going to invest it the company. Cyanogen raised $80 million in March ($115 raised in total). The last round included investors like Twitter, Rupert Murdoch, Qualcomm, Telefónica, Index Ventures, Access Industries, plus existing investors like China’s Tencent and Andreessen Horowitz.

But in the end, Microsoft did neither. Instead it fired up a partnership with the young company to embed Microsoft’s products like Skype and Office more deeply into its version of Android.

Johnson explained why Microsoft decided to partner instead of buy or invest: Microsoft was taking a wait-and-see attitude with Cyanogen.

She said that “Cyanogen is doing something fairly basic” and that “at this time, it feels like it makes more sense to partner to see how its journey is going,” adding that “partnerships are sometimes about exploring.”

But she says, other options are not completely off the table. “We’ll stay close to them and continue to look of more ways to partner,” she said.

In fact, Microsoft has already taken the next step. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital personal assistant, is now available for Apple iOS, Android, and Cyanogen OS devices.

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