The Art of Bluster and Hyperbole: Cyanogen Edition
Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster, in a recent interview with Forbes, said, "We're putting a bullet through Google's head."
Cyanogen, for the uninformed, is an Android ROM which began its life as an alternative ROM for some Android phones (for users who wanted more control and options for how to use the OS, or simply for users trying to eke one more Android upgrade out of a phone no longer supported by carriers or OEM's), and which is now promoted as the preinstalled version of Android on a few devices like the OnePlus One. Their primary target, outside of the Android ROMing Community they still serve, is emerging markets.
While all told the Cyanogen version of Android does command many millions of users, and while the OnePlus One enjoys a passionate community and a fair deal of hype, it is a drop in a bucket of some two billion Android devices, the majority of which come preinstalled with Google's Android apps (a requirement for carriers and OEM's wanting access to these apps and the Google branding for their phone, though they are allowed to sell competing flavors of Android as long as they don't break app compatibility).
So, even if somehow, through some highly unlikely miracle, this tinker-toy-ROM-come-quasi-OS were to overcome the market share advantage Google's Android flavor currently enjoys (an advantage that grows geometrically by the day, week, month, and year), it would take a very, very long time just based on replacement cycles alone (unless 100% of Google Android users suddenly switched to Cyanogen at their very next replacement cycle).
Last time I checked, outside of extraordinary circumstances, a bullet to the head is quick and painless. Even if Cyanogen were to 'beat' Android, the process would be quite long and painful, happening virtually in slow motion as both companies watched.
That's putting aside the question of why Cyanogen's flavor should be considered preferable. The advantages generally mentioned even by heir own leaders seem aimed purely at OEMs, Carriers, and Developers, who can compete (one assumes through bidding processes or partnerships of some kind) to gain a preinstalled and even integrated advantage.
The biggest problem here, of course, is the lack of unity. Depending on time and geographic location, your Cyanogen device might come with any number of preinstalled or integrated features. Here, perhaps, is one running Microsoft apps and services; there, one running services popular in the Indian market; elsewhere, perhaps in Russia, one comes with Yandex apps and services preinstalled.
There may even, indeed, be cases where such a flexible approach would be advantageous. Where, for example, Google services are not available or for good reasons not popular, or where it truly allows new innovations to reach consumers before larger competitors can copy and destroy the new player.
Unfortunately, such fragmentation tends in the long run to be more a liability than a virtue. With fundamentally new approaches to a platform would necessarily arise new developer tools, such as new API's to plug-in to for access to, say, an integrated Cortana in Android, a 'Google Now'-like integrated product from Yandex or Baidu, a payment system specific to some developing market, etc...
Confronted with too many options, developers are prone to do what they always do: wittle it down to a handful, and often no more than one or two, flavors of Android to target. Google will likely be the first of those, realistically, with Amazon perhaps remaining second target for developed markets, and certain smaller, regional flavors in places like China and India. Very likely, it will remain Google First in Developed Markets, Amazon as an easy afterthought, and regional players in large developing markets for developers targeting those markets (where Google, Microsoft, Amazon, et al also intend to build a presence).
The end result is the very thing Cyanogen seems to oppose: consolidation around one or a few players in the market, with Cyanogen perhaps being one of the Developing Market flavors, if not the largest. It gets worse, though: if Cyanogen can do this, almost any group of developers large enough and talented enough could do it as well, either by building on the Android Open Source Project as Cyanogen does, or by even building right on top of Cyanogen, with Cyanogen getting paid not one dime.
This, in fact, is pretty much inevitable, and someone else will always believe they have an even better-er, more open-er solution, for which of course they too would like to be paid.
Virtually the only way Cyanogen could limit such fragmentation would be to, say, set restrictive licensing terms on access to some of the apps and services they provide. Which, of course, sounds exactly like what Google requires for their own apps and services. Cyanogen could only confidently apply such terms if they owned, or had unbreakable partnerships with the owners of, the apps and services covered under this licensing agreement. In other words, more consolidation, more ecosystem lock-in, even if the taste might vary by region or over time.
It's also entirely unclear to me how their business model gives the sorts of returns many of their early investors expect (surely not all their funding comes from long-term thinkers patiently waiting and hoping for Google's grip on the market to loosen at some unspecified future time). Unless, of course, they intend to pursue either subscription or ad based monetization... which, again, is different from the current situation how exactly?
I'm all for more competition. Even as a Google user, I benefit when Google sweats over the competition, and benefit far less when they feel 'safe' in the market. Let us not kid ourselves, however: Cyanogen is either overpromising where they will surely underperform, or they secretly have ambitions virtually identical to the company whose Operating System they've sworn to 'take back'.Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
- Proverbs 16:18 #Android #Cyanogen #Cyanogenmod