Cyanogen forking Android? Let's take a look.

So not too long ago, there was a lot of discussion about a guy named Jake and how he wanted to use Android, but not Google.  There can be a lot said about the 'why' there, and some folks (like myself) believe that if you take out the Google, there's not much left of the Android.

Sure, it's OPEN SOURCE, but their services they keep to themselves.  So it's an interesting topic.

Even our own +Martin Guay wrote an article on how to reduce some of the Google services (mostly to protect your battery).

photo from / taken by Sam Lessin
Well, it looks like +Cyanogen Inc. has some of the same thoughts; that Android (or at least the Cyanogenmod version of it) would be better served outside of the Google world.

It was during an interview last week at an event called "Next Phase of Android" in San Francisco where Nexbit, Yahoo, Punit Soni, Dropbox and Cyanogen talked about Android.

Kirt McMaster of Cyanogen Inc. made the quote that everybody lately is running with:

"Today, Cyanogen has some dependence on Google.  Tomorrow, it will not."

Is that the death knell for a Google Android?  i.e. will other OEMs start to really develop their own complete versions of an AOSP ROM and leave any Googley business alone?

Lots think so.

But let's take a look.  Android was initially designed as a free operating system that a phone manufacturer could use on their device.  Free and Open Source aren't necessarily the same thing; but Google was big on being "Open Source" at the time and thus it was Open Source.  Free was nice for manufacturers as to put Nokia's, or Windows' operating system cost them money.  And there was no way they could get iOS or Blackberry.  So it was either pony up the cash for Symbian or WMP or develop your own.  Google coming along with Android and giving it away for free was a nice way to save some money.

Now, they did a bit of work on the whole thing by saying in order to use it you had to be a part of the OHSA (open handset alliance), and folks were allowed to skin what a user saw, but the underlay was pretty well untouched (i.e. you couldn't FORK Android).  Later on, they would say that to use Android you would also have to include the Google Play services, i.e. Google Play Store.  This was really good for Google's business model as it would help keep people in their domains, thus helping with not only their search business, but their advertising one (which, in my mind, makes for a better internet overall).

Fast forward to today and Cyanogen is not a part of the OHSA, so they are allowed to do what they want.  So long as they don't touch the Google Services, they could release a phone with an AOSP based ROM, their own tweaking and app store.  My only guess is that would they be able to get Google Services onto the devices when they ship, or would it be something that users have to sideload.

Another theory would be that they would develop their own App Store, independent of Google and developers could list there, as they would with like Amazon.  It's an interesting play for sure.

Now, personally I like to look at this objectively.  I haven't paid for the full transcript, but have read dozens of other articles from those who have and just taking my own gleaning from it (so take my thoughts for what it's worth).  Further Kirt's quote and he mentions that they are potentially looking at a whole system off of AOSP.  Also, he mentions working with a version of Android that is more 'open' to allow more partners and using service layers that are independent from Google (he mentions how often some of these services get acquired by Apple or Google).

For me, I think about how Cyanogen has been... have they been as 'open' or as willing to work with partners.  OnePlus might have a different thought than some.  Then there was the camera app...  it's not without it's own little fights here and there (and what big company hasn't?).

A device could look exactly like it does now on Cyanogenmod, only there'd be no Google services.  No Gmail, no Play Store.  It would still connect to the internet, use cyanogenmod email apps, messenging etc.. If you didn't use Google, you could still use the device no problem.

Personally I wouldn't like a device without Google Services.  Any time I've picked up a Blackberry or iPhone to use, my first inkling is to install all as many Google Apps as possible.  I love the ecosystem.  Build webOS into a wicked handset and I'd use it, so long as I can still get my Gmail and use things like Keep and Now.

But there are many out there I know that could turn on a Tizen powered device and never know the difference (because they'd never use Google, or Samsung for that matter, services).

What would a Cyanogen phone look like to you?