AT&T is working with Cyanogen and may sell a smartphone running an alternative version of Android, according to The Information.
Cyanogen has quietly gained ground in recent years with its own version of Android that eschews Google's mobile apps and services in favor of its own. The company last year closed an $80 million funding round from sources including Qualcomm, Twitter Ventures and Rupert Murdoch, and in July it announced the addition of two senior engineers from Amazon and Qualcomm to its ranks.
ZTE has been in talks with AT&T about building the Cyanogen-powered device, The Information reported, citing "one person with direct knowledge and one person briefed about the talks."
Cyanogen claimed last year that its open source OS had more than 50 million users in more than 109 countries. Cyanogen OS is "a better, faster version of Android," according to the company, and offers heightened security and other features Google's version doesn't.
The company was also one of last year's Fierce 15 award winners.
While Android is an open source OS, Google maintains tight control over the platform because its terms of service deny access to services such as Google Play and Google Maps to companies that try to co-opt it by integrating their own offerings. Cyanogen, on the other hand, offers carriers, manufacturers and third-party app developers the ability to deeply integrate their services into Cyanogen OS, and shares resulting revenues from app installs or the sale of other software or services to users.
Cyanogen essentially has no commercial presence in the U.S., but that could change with the support of the nation's second-largest carrier -- particularly if AT&T opts to market a Cyanogen-powered handset aggressively.
Whether any real demand exists in the U.S. for an alternative to Apple's iOS and Google's Android is far from clear, however. Those two platforms continue to dominate the landscape, leaving also-rans like Windows and BlackBerry to fight over a tiny fraction of the market. And while Amazon has made strides with its own version of Android for tablet users, the Fire phone it introduced in 2014 was an embarrassing flop. Moreover, other smartphone operating systems have failed to find traction in the market; Mozilla last year discontinued its Firefox OS platform for smartphones.
- see this Information report (sub. req'd.)
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