Cyanogen partners with Microsoft to integrate Bing, other MS services

CyanogenMod logoCyanogen Inc. and Microsoft announced a "strategic partnership" today to bundle Microsoft services into the Cyanogen OS. The agreement includes "Bing services, Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, and Microsoft Office."

Cyanogen started as an aftermarket Android ROM maker, but recently the group went pro, formed a company, and started taking VC funding. It got an outside CEO, Kirk McMaster, who has stated that the new company's (very ambitious) goal is to "take Android away from Google." Cyanogen wants to supply its Android distribution to OEMs as a kind of outsourced software house, and currently Cyanogen OS powers the OnePlus One. The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft was going to invest in Cyanogen, but the deal fell through at some point, apparently in favor of this partnership.

"People around the world use Cyanogen's operating system and popular Microsoft services to engage with what matters most to them on their mobile devices," said Cyanogen's CEO. "This exciting partnership with Microsoft will enable us to bring new kinds of integrated services to mobile users in markets around the world."

If Cyanogen really wants to ship a Googleless Android, it will need to provide alternatives to Google's services, and this Microsoft deal is a small start. Microsoft can provide alternatives for Search (Bing), Google Drive (OneDrive and Office), and Gmail (Outlook). The real missing pieces are alternatives to Google Play, Google Maps, and Google Play Services. Cyanogen has said it will develop an app store in-house, but we haven't heard plans for a mapping client or media stores, though it could just leave that up to users and it wouldn't be a huge deal.

What is a big deal for any non-Google Android fork is Google Play Services. Many apps depend on it, and without it, Cyanogen won't be able to run apps that use Google's push notifications, in-app purchases, Ads, Google Cast, Google Play Games, location APIs, and a ton of other features. Amazon combats this on the Kindle line by offering drop-in replacement APIs for Google Play Services, and if Cyanogen wants a serious app ecosystem it will need to do the same.

Microsoft has been increasingly taking a "horizontal" approach to Android, seeing it as a platform it should expand to. The company brought Office over to Android tablets and will reportedly bring its voice assistant, Cortana, to Android as well. It also collects patent royalties from just about every major Android OEM, and the company signed a more limited distribution agreement with Samsung, which shipped OneNote and OneDrive on the Galaxy S6.

"We aspire to have our tools within arm's reach of everyone, to empower them in all aspects of their lives. This partnership represents another important step towards that ambition," said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Microsoft Corp. "We'll continue to deliver world-class experiences across productivity and communications on Windows, and we're delighted that Cyanogen users will soon be able to take advantage of those same powerful services."

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, Microsoft

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