Microsoft Supplies Apps For Cyanogen's Android Fork
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Monday, 20 April 2015

As they say - the plot thickens. After not quite investing in Cyanogen, Microsoft is now set to provide services in CyanogenOS. What does this mean for the Android programmer?

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Cyanogen is one of a number of Android forks, but it is special in that it is creating a Google-free version of Android, it isn't a non-profit, nor is it a company like Amazon using Android as a vehicle to sell its users other services. At the moment it isn't clear how Cyanogen will actually make money from its version of Android, but selling direct to phone manufacturers seems the most likely route. 

The problem of creating an alternative to Google Android is that as well as the open source part of Android - Android Open Source Platform (AOSP) - there are also the services that Google supplies such as Google apps, maps, Gmail, ads and everything that you find in Google Play. Anyone wanting to create a new Android OS can take AOSP and customize it, but where are the non-Google equivalents of the services to come from?  

Cyanogen may want to take Android away from Google but it can't do it on its own and this is where Microsoft steps in. 

Microsoft has agreed to Cyanogen integrating and using Microsoft's consumer apps - Bing for search, One Drive, Skype, Office, OneNote and Outlook. Interestingly there is no mention of using Bing Maps to replace Google Maps, but perhaps this is being left to the user. 

What part Microsoft is playing in getting its services to run on Cyanogen isn't 100% clear but the press release says:

"As part of this collaboration, Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS, enabling a powerful new class of experiences."

So what Cyanogen gains is a set of drop-in replacements for the Google services it cannot use and Microsoft is doing a lot of the work. 

It is easy to see that Microsoft stands to benefit from inclusion in the Android fork. It might even have a bigger gain if the EU's recent action against Google forces any sort of unbundling of Google services from Android. If Microsoft has a set of services to drop into a standard Android device, and remember Cyanogen OS is just Android minus the Google services, it will have a head start in filling the gap. 

Of course many users adopted Cyanogen just to get away from Google's bundled services and the chances are that they won't find services from Microsoft any more preferable. However, it is not the existing user that this move is designed to please but mobile phone makers wanting to offer a non-Google Android to a wider public. 

From the programmer's point of view every split in the Android OS market is a potential headache. It is bad enough having to create a custom version for Amazon's Fire and to have to deal with Cyanogen OS adds to the problem. In principle as long as you don't use any Google services and restrict your app to the core facilities provided by AOSP, then it should just work. However, in any real case you are going to have to included some customizations to make your app work with Fire or Cyanogen OS. Perhaps the biggest problem is the need to get your app into the Google app store, the Amazon app store and eventually the planned Cyanogen app store - said to be launching early next year. 

What can Google do?

It could do the unthinkable and stop working on AOSP and create its own fork of Android - pure Google Android. As the AOSP is mostly licensed under Apache 2.0, this is perfectly reasonable and is precisely what Amazon has done with Fire OS. 

This would leave others to work on AOSP and allow Google to run Android as a fully commercial business. It might even make the situation with the EU easier as Android would be a proprietary OS with proprietary support.

From our point of view this would be real Android fragmentation.

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More Information

​Cyanogen Announces Strategic Partnership with Microsoft

Related Articles

Microsoft To Invest In CyanogenMod   *Note: the deal fell through but Cyanogen did get a big investment.

CyanogenMod Installer Pulled From Google Play       

Amazon Fire Not Really Open       

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 April 2015 )