Cyanogen Plans to Become the Open Source Alternative to Google’s Android …

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cyanogen partnering with Blu to launch a truly Google-free Android phone.

BENGALURU: Premji Invest, the family office of Wipro’s billionaire chairman Azim Premji, has led an $80-million round of funding in US-based mobile operating system startup Cyanogen, whose founder claims his objective is to create a Google-less Android and “put a bullet through Google’s head.” Other investors include Twitter Ventures, Qualcomm, Telefonica Ventures, Smartfren Telecom, Index Ventures, and Rupert Murdoch.Less than 18 months into its life as a public company, Twitter is still in hyper-growth, loss-making mode, yet it’s already busy seeding other companies with venture capital money.

Twitter ’s quiet push into venture capital has officially begun, investing in Cyanogen, the six-year-old company looking to compete with Google ’s Android operating system. On Monday, Cyanogen said it raised $80 million and listed its investors as Twitter Ventures, chip company Qualcomm , Indian investment firm PremjiInvest and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who is the executive chairman of News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal. The maiden investment comes nine months after Mike Gupta traded in his role as Twitter’s finance chief to lead Twitter’s strategic investments team.

The details aren’t final, but McMaster tells Forbes the plan is to ship the phone with alternatives like the Opera web browser, Amazon Appstore, Nokia’s Here maps and Spotify for music. At the time, Digits noted that this likely signaled Twitter would be making its own bets on startups for the first time, but the company remained quiet. The Cyanogen operating system is built on Android and is known for its personalization features, intuitive interface, speed, improved battery life and enhanced security. “We’re committed to creating an open computing platform that fundamentally empowers the entire mobile ecosystem from developers to hardware makers, and most importantly, consumers around the world,” said CEO McMaster. “We’re excited to have the backing of an amazingly diverse group of strategic investors who are supporting us in building a truly open Android,” he added.

When former Goldman Sachs banker Anthony Noto was appointed CFO in May 2014, his predecessor, Mike Gupta, was moved into a new role overseeing strategic investments. The company also plans to build its own app store, though there isn’t yet a clear path to how its scheme will churn out enough revenue to sustain the company. Twitter continues to remain mum on the group, so it’s not clear how much capital the company is committing to invest, who else is on the team, or what types of companies it will invest in.

Twitter joins the likes of Google and Intel in setting up a separate ventures division that presumably will invest relatively small amounts of money in promising startups. It will also feature Bing for web searches and Microsoft’s Cortana for a voice assistant. “When these other apps are deeply integrated into the phone, most of the time they perform better than the Google apps,” AndroidAuthority quoted Blu CEO Samuel Ohev-Zion as saying. But while modders and open source advocates may be enamored with the plan, it’s unclear how much mainstream appeal a truly Google-free device will have.

CyanogenMod, the open source OS backed by the firm, has over 50 million users in 190 countries. “We invested in Cyanogen because we’re big proponents of what they’re doing in opening up Android and supporting global and local ecosystem players,” said Sandesh Patnam, technology sector lead in Premji Invest. Google insists that its extremely active VC arm, for example, exists to generate returns on the company’s cash pile, rather than to unearth new, strategically important technologies—although Google did end up acquiring one of the companies the venture arm invested in, the thermostat maker Nest. The story behind the story: Cyanogen first began as one of many Android modifications—an alternate version of the operating system for tinkerers to play with on their devices. More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.

But after Cyanogen was bundled on the OnePlus One the company’s ambitions haven’t slowed down, culminating in its vision for a separate and Google-free operating system.

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