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Cyanogen Hopes Qualcomm Tie-Up Will Make It Easier for Phone Makers to Adopt Its Software

Cyanogen's mobile operating system software will be included as an option on hardware from chipmaker Qualcomm.


Cyanogen, which offers an alternative mobile operating system to Google’s flavor of Android, is announcing a deal that will see its software included as an option with reference design hardware from chipmaker Qualcomm.

The Qualcomm relationship is important because a growing number of phone makers, especially in emerging markets, build their devices largely based on reference designs from chipmakers like Qualcomm and MediaTek. It’s a trend known as “turnkey.”

“We think the rise of turnkey which has happened in China and is happening in India … will lead to the destruction of the high-end guys, the Samsungs of the world,” CEO Kirt McMaster said in an interview.

But for all of McMaster’s tough talk, his company has yet to have the commercial version of its software show up on many devices. So far, it is included on the OnePlus One handset, as well as a new line from India’s Micromax.

There is an open-source version of its Android version, known as CyanogenMod, that all device makers are free to use, but Cyanogen doesn’t get revenue from that.

Cyanogen is expected to announce a deal in Barcelona later this week that will see its software loaded in at least one more new device.

One of the keys will be building a strong lineup of big-name partners to offer alternatives to Google staples such as Google Maps, Chrome and Gmail. Microsoft and Amazon are among the kinds of companies that could have an interest in working more closely with Cyanogen.

Cyanogen is in talks to raise a bunch more money, as we and others have noted, but the company doesn’t plan to talk about that in Barcelona. McMaster did confirm that the company is looking to bring in some of its potential partners as investors.

“We’re more interested in what we can do together from a product standpoint than what their money [can do],” he said. “However we have partners that are really interested in what we are doing. With some of these guys, we’ve said ‘Sure, we think the time is right.'”

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