I’ve been sitting on some really good links about Cyanogen, Inc. and its co-founder Steve Kondik for a while now, but have resisted posting them here because together they tell such a sordid and convoluted tale. But it looks like the dust has settled and we finally have closure, so here we go…
You’ll recall that in September of 2013 CyanogenMod, the most popular custom ROM for Android, incorporated into Cyanogen, Inc. Their business model was solid—the rising tide of Chinese-branded smartphones could never even hope to do well in the west with the bloated, ad-ridden software tolerated at home. The new Cyanogen OS made its famous début on 2014’s OnePlus One, incorrectly called CyanogenMod 11S by yours truly. And then things got weird.
Cyanogen, Inc.—or, more accurately, its CEO Kirt McMaster—fucked over OnePlus when it (he) made an exclusive deal to provide software for Micromax, an Android OEM in India. For a time OnePlus was effectively blocked from selling phones in the world’s second largest smartphone market. A few months later McMaster boasted to Forbes that Cyanogen was “putting a gun to Google’s head“.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016, where Cyanogen, Inc. decided to get out of the Android ROM business altogether, laying off 20% of its staff and “pivoting” to market the only other intellectual property it had—a scant few customized Android apps.
The one bright spot through this mess was the continued availability of the free CyanogenMod ROM—that is until Steve Kondik, the founder of the project, told his side of the story to the CM community in an open letter:
My co-founder [McMaster] apparently became unhappy with running the business and not owning the vision. This is when the “bullet to the head” and other misguided media nonsense started, and the bad business deals were signed. Being second in command, all I could do was try and stop it, do damage control, and hope every day that something new didn’t happen. The worst of it happened internally and it became a generally shitty place to work because of all the conflict.
Shortly after posting this, Kondik was fired from the company he himself had started. And shortly after that, the Inc. shut down all the infrastructure that had made the Mod possible.
But all is not lost: CyanogenMod lives on in the form of Lineage OS, with Kondik and some other key talent running the show. Though ROMs are currently available for only a few devices, many, many more are in the works.
And what of Cyanogen, Inc., and the CEO that ruined everything? Well, the news from Android Police over the weekend is that McMaster has a new logo on the door of Cyanogen’s old HQ, and a smashed Tesla in the parking lot. Talk about a train wreck…