Microsoft named as Cyanogen investor

January 30, 2015 | 11:09

Tags: #android #cyanogen #financial #operating-system #smartphone #tablet

Companies: #google #microsoft #oneplus #open-source

Microsoft is reportedly planning to invest money in Cyanogen, the company that made its name with a custom ROM for Android smartphones and tablets, in a $70 million funding round.

Launched by Steve Kondik as a community-driven effort to take Google's open-source Android code and turn it into a more powerful and flexible operating system, CyanogenMod rapidly became one of the most popular Android ROMs around. Even now, features in CyanogenMod like the Privacy Guard system for managing app permissions and CPU overclocking in demand have yet to find their way into Google's stock Android builds.

Kondick raised controversy in 2013 when he announced that CyanogenMod was to spin off into a commercial company, dubbed Cyanogen Incorporated. Using a Series 1 funding run of $7 million, the fledgling company has brushed some community members up the wrong way with claims from contributors that the new company was making demands they were unwilling to meet. The controversy has hardly harmed the popularity of the company's ROM images, however, and it has chalked up deals to have its software preinstalled on devices including the popular OnePlus One smartphone.

Cyanogen is now looking for more cash to fund future development, with the Wall Street Journal quoting an unnamed source as putting the next financing round at $70 million on a 'high hundreds of millions' valuation. While that's impressive growth for a company which was founded on $7 million less than two years ago, one of the potential investors is raising eyebrows: Microsoft.

Despite competing with Google's Android using its Windows Phone platform, Microsoft has been named by the WSJ's sources as a 'minority investor' in the company. This, it is claimed, is a strategic investment: Microsoft, along with other as-yet unnamed companies, are hoping to shore up Cyanogen in order to loosen Google's grip on the Android ecosystem in a classic divide-and-conquer approach. It's something Cyanogen itself supports, surprisingly: 'We’re going to take Android away from Google,' Kirk McMaster, Cyanogen's chief executive, boldly told WSJ in an interview last week - before the news of Microsoft's planned investment had broke.

While Cyanogen has enjoyed semi-mainstream success with OnePlus, the deal recently went sour when the company confirmed that it would not be supporting the OnePlus One in the future. As a result, OnePlus is building its own Android ROM dubbed OxygenOS which will replace CyanogenMod on its handsets. The company has yet to announce a launch date, but has promised more information on the 12th of February.

Neither Cyanogen nor Microsoft have commented on the WSJ's report.
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