Cyanogen OS: Been There, Done That

Cyan-buntu

All I can say is wow, the execs at Cyanogen, Inc. are really blowing their brains out.

Flush with some $80 million in fresh funding from the likes of Qualcomm, Twitter and Rupert Murdoch, Cyanogen’s CEO had this to say in a recent interview with Forbes:

We’re putting a bullet through Google’s head.

Uh-huh…

A bombastic statement like this makes for a great headline but honestly, I’ve seen this sort of thing before. In fact, if you’ll indulge me I’ll compare Cyanogen with another technology company to give you an idea of where arrogance like this ultimately leads.

So there’s this desktop Linux distribution called Ubuntu. In the same way that Cyanogen is a version of Android with customizations, so too is Ubuntu a version of Linux with customizations. As operating systems go, both have very good reputations: CyanogenMod was the first custom firmware for Android and at this stage in its development is arguably the most slick; Ubuntu’s big claim to fame (as I remember it) was the Live CD, allowing the user to test drive Ubuntu before making the commitment to install it on their boot drive. And both companies have rather outspoken leaders—Steve Kondik for Cyanogen and Mark Shuttleworth for Ubuntu.

In early 2010 the sudden and seemingly arbritrary decision was made to move window controls in Ubuntu from the right to left-hand side. There may or may not have been technical merits behind the move, but the resulting furor from the Linux community (Ubuntu users and otherwise) boiled down to a simple but significant slight: users were not consulted in this decision.

Ditto for Cyanogen, Inc. The hyperbole from Kondik et al would suggest that Google is a cancer and Cyanogen OS is the cure. Is it? Google apps haven’t been bundled with CyanogenMod since 2009, yet I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of Android modders—myself included—also flash some sort of gapps zip with their favourite Android ROM. The one thing missing in all of Cyanogen’s bluster is any indication from users that they really want Google apps out of the picture.

So what became of Ubuntu? It’s still around, of course… The focus these days seems to be on the company’s nascent mobile OS. But the result of the window button debacle was a mass exodus of users to greener pastures. Ubuntu still ranks near the very top of the rankings at DistroWatch.com, but it no longer has a lock on first place.

Cyanogen, Inc. is in a bit of a different situation; unlike Ubuntu it’s making deals with hardware OEMs left and right to run its software out of the box. So in the near term it will likely enjoy more popularity, not less. But for the small and savvy minority of modders out there this is just one more reason to move on.

I’m pretty happy with SlimKat. 😎

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