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article imageCyanogen might be about to abandon its Android rival, fires staff

By James Walker     Jul 25, 2016 in Technology
Alternative Android distribution Cyanogen is reportedly undergoing major lay-offs as its operating system has failed to find favour with phone manufacturers. It is said to be planning a "pivot" into apps, abandoning its Android alternative.
Cyanogen began as the immensely popular third-party Android ROM, CyanogenMod. The feature-packed version of Android was frequently used by enthusiasts and hackers to get more from their phones. As the project grew and became more ambitious, it began to evolve into an OS in its own right. Cyanogen Inc. was formed to continue development of CyanogenMod as a distinct version of Android to rival Google's original.
Over the weekend, reports emerged from Android Police and Recode that the plan isn't working out. The startup has reportedly laid off around 20 percent of its workforce, 30 people out of a total of 136. It's unclear whether more redundancies will be made this week. The layoffs are primarily in what was Cyanogen's core division, its open-source OS development team.
Cyanogen had an ambitious goal of creating a version of Android to rival Google's own. It thought that by baking in advanced features and unique capabilities, such as the MOD modular platform, it could convince handset manufacturers to use CyanogenOS over Android. The platform would gain market share from its own parent. If successful, it would leave the Android ecosystem a more level playing field, removing some of Google's control.
In practice, few smartphone manufacturers have been interested. When faced with a choice of community startup derived from open-source ROM or the proven original, complete with Google's full set of services, Cyanogen has been getting little attention.
The operating system was used on the relatively high-profile OnePlus One. OnePlus has since abandoned Cyanogen though, moving to its own OxygenOS. Cyanogen's only other hardware partner has been India's Micromax. Micromax has launched a single phone using its platform. The formation of Cyanogen Inc. hasn't really helped to get Cyanogen onto phones. If a device is running Cyanogen, it's almost certainly to be the original CyanogenMod flavour.
Cyanogen has received backing from some influential partners. Microsoft has given it support, allowing it to integrate services like its Cortana digital assistant into the core of its operating system. Some had speculated Cyanogen could be Microsoft's fall-back plan as Windows 10 Mobile descends into obscurity but little has come of the partnership in recent months.
According to Android Police, Cyanogen's offices in Lisbon and India have been "essentially gutted" by the layoffs The main systems and QA teams in Palo Alto and Seattle have also been heavily affected. On Friday, Cyanogen told those people who are retaining their jobs not to attend work. People affected by the lay-offs were the only ones in, attending "generic human resources meetings."
Cyanogen CEO Kirk McMaster declined to comment on the layoffs to Recode. It looks like the company may be forced to back down from rivalling Google, "pivoting" towards apps rather than an all-out operating system. With little demand for a new mobile platform, Cyanogen has failed to gain the momentum it had anticipated.
More about cyanogen, Google, Android, cyanogenmod, moible
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