Dev

CyanogenMod: Hardware, acquisitions … where do we go from here? (interview)

Image Credit: Koush Dutta

SAN FRANCISCO — The makers of Android jailbreaking software CyanogenMod announced today they had founded their own company and raised $7 million.

Naturally curious about the whole shebang, we caught up with two CM team members at TwilioCon today and grilled ‘em like filet mignon about the company’s future, its goals, and the next crucial steps from hacker tool to consumer app.

Currently, CyanogenMod is incredibly difficult to install — impossible for the average layperson. Yet it still has seen installs on a grand total of 8 million devices. (CM isn’t telling exactly how many individual users or active users it has.)

But Chris Soyars, CM’s senior systems engineer, and cofounder Koush Dutta did sit down with us to discuss a few other fascinating facts about the new company and its product, which is, as of today, as simple to install as any other app.


VentureBeat: Now that CM is easier to install, are you looking at capturing a larger global audience?

Chris Soyars: Actually, most of our userbase is in China — a very significant percentage.

Koush Dutta: Right now, we want to build something compelling that will work geographically. The main barrier to entry is the fact that it’s just insanely difficult to install. The fact that we have 8 million devices is just ridiculous.

VentureBeat: How has your relationship been with Google, OEMs, and carriers?

Dutta: Google doesn’t even actually ship their own OS. The carriers do. It wouldn’t really be stepping on Google so much.

Soyars: We changed or had a significant role in changing the attitude about unlocking devices. [Carriers] are open to it now.

VentureBeat: What are your thoughts on Firefox OS, which is also gunning for the No. 3 spot in mobile operating systems?

Dutta: I’m not sure why they didn’t choose Android. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Instead, they decided to create their own ecosystem that has no mindshare, no apps yet. … It’s going to be difficult. It’s a dicey proposition.

VentureBeat: Is this new download/install process simple enough for the average Android user?

Dutta: Our story is, I want my mom to be able to install this on her phone. And the first day [we deployed], an engineer told us, “I got my mom to install it.” And she didn’t even use Android.

VentureBeat: Do you have any plans for hardware? At least on the R&D side?

Dutta: Hardware is something we’d love to get into, but it’s not in our scope yet.

Soyars: But we are announcing a partnership with an OEM.

VentureBeat: So, what are your next steps? What are you doing with this funding, and will you pursue more funding?

Dutta: Right now, our marketing is going to be organic, reaching the people who tried to install and failed, working on organic growth. We’ll be pursuing more funding in the next three to four months.

Soyars: Our main strategy is growth. It has potential; we just need to grow it.

Dutta: And Android has a billion devices. Even if we only captured 3 or 4 percent, that’s a huge number.

VentureBeat: Is an acquisition or other exit even part of your roadmap?

Dutta: [Smiling] No comment.


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