Android can be a minefield, but it seems one of the landmines may have detonated itself. Cyanogen Inc., which handled the software behind the OnePlus One, is reportedly in the midst of massive layoffs and a ‘pivot’ to apps.
Cyanogen started as an alternative to Google’s stock Android that had to hardware home. Users were free to download Cyanogen ROM and ‘flash’ it to their Android handsets, and still are.
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Free to use, Cyanogen has its roots in the ‘modding’ community and started as a side project for a few engineers. It quick;y became incredibly popular, and those who masterminded the project decided to make it a full-time endeavor.
In doing so, Cyanogen kept its free option available, but also partnered with hardware manufacturers like OnePlus to deliver a more custom experience; it was helping smaller players compete with the Samsungs and LGs of the world, where a recognizable OS helps you stand out.
Cyanogen lost favor with OnePlus, and a series of other deals fell through.
Massive layoffs and a move to Android apps
According to Android Police, Cyanogen is laying off about 20 percent of its staff across the board. Most of the cuts are believed to come from the branch of the company dedicated to working on its free ROM.
The Cyanogen ROM itself is not going away, but those paid to work on it at Cyanogen probably are.
Android Police also notes that a source is claiming Cyanogen will “pivot to apps,” but it’s not entirely clear what that means (my bet is that it will make many Cyanogen OS apps available for Android proper). The likely scenario is that Cyanogen will become a development house for really good Android apps, maybe even alternatives to Google’s stock apps, considering the company’s distaste for Google.
Google, Android and Cyanogen
It could have been false bravado, but Cyanogen’s Kirt McMaster once said his company was “putting a bullet through Google’s head.”
Google is a dangerous bear to poke, and some reports suggested it was once interested in buying Cyanogen, which would have been a measure to shut it up as much as hire good talent.
But the threat of Cyanogen quickly dissipated for Google. As it kept chugging along, Cyanogen continued to find real footing as an upstart OS provider — as good an idea as it was, it just never caught on.
It could have been because Android matured enough that a standalone OS wasn’t quite as exciting as it once was, or it could have been Cyanogen itself. In its fallout with OnePlus, the company came off as defensive and brash rather than one interested in providing a great OS for its customers.
Now it looks like we’ll be getting Android apps from Cyanogen. That’s probably a better look for them.