Cyanogen — the company that builds custom versions of Android (including Microsoft software) for manufactures — is shaking itself up. It announced today that it has a new CEO, Lior Tal, and a new strategy. It’s a weird one: instead of trying to get OEMs to license its entire OS, it’s breaking its features up into “Mods” that can be applied to any core Android install. So manufacturers will be able to pick and choose what features they want to include.
Tal replaces the old, bombastic CEO Kirt McMaster, who sent a letter to Cyanogen employees earlier today. In it, McMaster admitted that the company wasn’t going to scale trying to sell the “full stack” and so it needed to pivot. He’s moving to a new role as executive chairman of the board and he invited us all to comment on that move:
Now bring on all the "bullet through the head" jokes from the Android blogs. ; )
It would be fair to say that Cyanogen needed to do something different. Last month The Information reported that it may have been inflating its user numbers and it also had to lay off some staff, as TechCrunch notes. After some initial success getting its OS on the OnePlus One, not a lot of phones licensed the OS — certainly none that you’ve heard of, anyway. CyanogenMod, the ROMs that Android power users like to flash, has had more success — but it’s difficult to build a business off that at the scale Cyanogen was promising.
So a new approach was needed, but what exactly this modular approach will look like is a little vague. Tal’s post has some high-minded words about creating “something greater than the sum of our parts” that will “allow value, independence and intelligence to flow freely between the layers of the ecosystem.” Welcome, Cyanogen tells us, to the “post-app era.”