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05.13.15

Does Anyone Still View Cyanogen as Anything But a Microsoft Proxy?

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 4:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Android and Microsoft

Image from Android Beat

Summary: The marriage of convenience between Microsoft and Cyanogen helps reaffirm CyanogenMod’s status as a Microsoft Trojan horse which must be rejected

MICROSOFT is assaulting Android from numerous angles at the same time. There is no way Microsoft can compete with Android on technical merit, so Microsoft is, as usual, resorting to underhanded tactics and dirty tricks. Our recent article about Microsoft’s assault on Android says that “Cyanogen is confirmed as a Microsoft Trojan horse also elsewhere, so it’s not merely a rumour.”

Stallman asked us for additional references for that, so we provided a few [1, 2, 3], including one from Microsoft’s unofficial mouthpiece ([1] is from the original announcement). Anyone who still thinks of Cyanogen as an independent company is clearly not paying attention. The days of CyanogenMod are gone; now there’s just a proxy called Cyanogen and it is controlled by Microsoft just like Nokia was controlled by Microsoft after Elop had taken charge.

The announcement which unofficially confirmed Cyanogen’s status as a Microsoft proxy was made a few weeks ago, but we think many of the details are still not entirely clear to some negligent observers. It is not stated explicitly, but basically, CyanogenMod would push Microsoft software at the expense of Google et al. software (also Google/Android partners), turning Android into a sort of “Microsoft Android” — a term which some other sites now casually use as well. Android is facing the threat of a classic embrace extend and extinguish manoeuvre by a Microsoft proxy.

“We are having a fundamental miscommunication,” said Stallman. “The CyanogenMod I have heard of is a system distro. Various people have told me about installing in phones.”

That was well before Microsoft harnessed the popularity of CyanogenMod to attack Android, or to turn it into “Microsoft Android” (same thing which was attempted by Amazon, Facebook, and Nokia).

“You are talking about “CyanogenMod” as some sort of entity which can do things,” said Stallman. “That is a total surprise to me. What relationship exists between those two?”

One predates the other and Microsoft needs CyanogenMod to operate like a company, e.g. Cyanogen. Microsoft requires that in order to manipulate CyanogenMod in this turf war against Google and AOSP (Android Open Source Project).

“I will look at those articles,” said Stallman regarding additional links we sent to him. “Does this mean that when people install CyanogenMod on their phones, it standardly includes Skype etc?”

I recently found out that even some companies like HP preinstall Skype on Android tablets (I found out because I bought one for my parents in law). One has to wonder who pays who and what deals are silently being made, not publicly. With respect to Cyanogen’s CM12.1, I think that their latest release contains many Microsoft apps. I have not downloaded CM12.1 or anything like this to confirm it, but it seems like an inevitability. The announcement from Cyanogen (about the Microsoft deal) was made some weeks ago, so we think some of the details are still not entirely clear (they remain to be seen in practice), but basically, CyanogenMod would push Microsoft software (spyware, or ‘cloud’) into phones. We wrote additional articles about it and will continue to write as new details emerge. More Microsoft spyware and surveillance are being spotted by the media even this month, so whatever Microsoft puts on Cyanogen is likely to be as privacy-infringing as is legally allowed (if not well beyond it).

Stallman has been eager to understand what is happening here. We explained that Microsoft ‘embraces’ Cyanogen to make CyanogenMod a distro through which Cyanogen partners will spread Microsoft spyware, hoping that this adequately explains the relationship. Stallman wanted some broader context though. “It leaves the most important question unanswered,” he wrote to us. “Will the CyanogenMod distro that users install contain these Microsoft apps? Does it contain them now?”

Seeing the confusion here, we clarified a little further; CyanogenMod and Cyanogen are synonyms only in the sense that CyanogenMod (CM), previously a username of the guy who founded the company (Cyanogen), are company-product. A quick historical roundup:

  • CyanogenMod (name of person) uses AOSP (Android Open Source [sic] Project) to make his own fork/derivative of Android{tm}
  • CyanogenMod (self named, like Linus and Linux) becomes popular
  • CyanogenMod (the person) is hired by Samsung
  • CyanogenMod leaves Samsung
  • CyanogenMod establishes a company called Cyanogen
  • Microsoft sues Samsung using patents, compelling it to install Microsoft spyware (by default in Android) in order to attain settlement
  • VCs give money for Cyanogen to develop CyanogenMod
  • Microsoft ‘embraces’ Cyanogen to make CyanogenMod a distro through which Cyanogen partners will spread Microsoft spyware
  • (Coinciding with the above) After much lobbying in Europe, Microsoft paralyses Google and dubs Google apps in Android ‘anti-competitive’. This is accompanied by potential legal action.

We hope this adequately explains the relationship between CyanogenMod and Cyanogen and we hope that Microsoft’s strategy in attacking Google is better understood now. It’s an extension of the “Scroogled” PR campaign that Microsoft has sunk so much money and effort into. Microsoft, being Microsoft, is very focused on annihilating the competition rather creating its own products.

We always recommend Replicant and F-Droid, and have done so for years (even at CyanogenMod’s expense). See our articles from 2013. We sort of foresaw what is happening now, including what Microsoft does to Samsung and other Android distributors at the moment (patents as tools of extortion). According to the press in Taiwan, Microsoft now pressures companies to put Microsoft spyware in their distribution of Android or face patent lawsuits/higher patent royalties. This is extortion, blackmail, abuse of retaliatory means etc.

“I think it would help if the FSF issued some kind of statement regarding Microsoft’s behaviour,” I told Stallman, “[especially the attacks which happen] behind the scenes, countering Orwellian charm offensives that seek to paint/frame Windows as “Open Source” and insist that Microsoft “loves” [GNU/]Linux. What Microsoft has been doing recently sure increased the blood pressure levels of many Free software supporters (I wrote a lot about it this year). A high-authority, facts-based response would perhaps help counter Microsoft’s narrative.”

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