Mobile devices have put supercomputers in our hands, and—along with their first cousin—the tablet, represent the largest shift in computing since the PC era. The capacity and power of these devices are in its infancy, and all expectations lead to a doubling of capability every 18 months. In the same way that the PC era unlocked the imagination and innovation of an entire generation, we are seeing a repeat pattern with mobile devices at unprecedented scale.
History has shown that as compute capacity becomes available, new applications and programs happily consume the excess. Additional memory, disk, and processing power always lead to substantially better and more innovative products, serving an ever-broader set of consumers. We saw it with the PC, and we will see it with mobile as the number of devices grows well past a billion. Yet-to-be-developed applications are waiting to take advantage of this processing capability, and it’s going to require mobile operating system innovation to expose this awesome power.
An operating system is one of the most fundamental and important pieces of software. Great operating systems leverage new hardware, provide a consistent way to run applications, and provide a foundation for all interaction with a computing system. For PCs, Windows is the dominant operating system; for servers, Linux is dominant; and for mobile, Android enjoys a staggering 82% market share (Gartner, November 2013). Like Linux (and unlike Windows), Android is Open Source, which means no one company owns the code. Anyone can improve Android by adding new functionality and tools.
One reason why Android is winning is due to that open source spirit of additive innovation. Because consumers are clamoring for increased personalization and customization options, the Android open source community has been happily taking up the task of fulfilling that demand. What’s more, the growing enterprise trend of BYOD (bring your own device) is here to stay, which will further add to that demand as consumers use their mobile devices at home, at work, and on the road—all requiring customized functionality.
Enter Cyanogen, our newest portfolio company that’s well on its way in building a new operating system, CyanogenMOD (CM), leveraging core Open Source Android to provide the fastest, most innovative mobile operating system platform. CM takes the best of what Android offers and adds innovative features to create a clean yet customizable user experience. CM is 100% compatible with all Android applications, yet brings fabulous new capabilities to Android such as enhanced security, performance, device support, and personalization. Cyanogen has been powered by the open-source community—led by its founder Steve Kondik—ever since it launched four years ago. The community continues to work at a feverish pace, helping to bring up both newly launched and existing Android devices with the latest Cyanogen builds.
Today, tens of millions of devices are running Cyanogen worldwide, and we believe that CM has the opportunity to become one of the world’s largest mobile operating systems. As past history suggests, companies such as Microsoft and RedHat have done exceedingly well by being independent of hardware, and we believe that this trend will accelerate in the mobile world. The rapid success of CM indicates a growing consumer desire to have a fully compatible Android operating system that is truly independent from any hardware company or OEM. Consumers win as Cyanogen can launch updates more frequently, fix bugs faster, and deploy new features more regularly, compared to OEMs whose organizations are optimized for building fantastic hardware.
We’re incredibly excited to lead their Series B round of financing and to work with the Cyanogen team, a majority of which has been “sourced” from their “open source” community! Their expertise in building Android products and their desire to create a world-class mobile user experience will guide their decisions as they continue building on their success to date. Software is eating the world, Android is eating mobile, and we think Cyanogen only just finished their appetizer and is moving onto the entree.