AT&T is thinking about partnering with Cyanogen to build its own version of Android, according to a new report in The Information. The report cites two sources, who claim the carrier had looked to ZTE to build phones running the fork before export sanctions complicated that aspect of the deal. Cyanogen already produces and licenses an alternate version of Android, but this would be by far the largest partnership the company has ever taken on.
If implemented, the result would be something akin to Amazon's FireOS, a new flavor of Android based on Google's source code but controlled entirely by AT&T. It would also give AT&T sole responsibility for maintaining the OS going forward. New additions to Google's stock Android system might be difficult to incorporate into AT&T's new version, and some might not make it over at all. At the same time, AT&T would be able to integrate phones more deeply into its existing infrastructure. One likely possibility would be an OS-level integration with AT&T's DirectTV service, akin to the Prime video features in Amazon's recent Fire tablets.
It's still unclear how committed AT&T is to the idea, or how far the company had progressed in its talks with Cyanogen and ZTE. As with any tentative project, it's very possible the proposed system will never be developed. But if the proposed OS does come to fruition, it would represent the largest break yet in Google's control over Android, coming just as the company has sought to exercise more control over Android phones on the security front.