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Microsoft may invest in Android spin-off developer

Microsoft's take on the mobile industry hasn't ever been particularly strong. It has rebounded a little with its Nokia purchase and the recent Windows Phone push, but it is far and away the second fiddle and third wheel of the industry dominated by iOS and Android handsets. However that may not be the case forever, as rumours suggest Microsoft may be set to invest as much as $70 million (£46 million) in a firm that is designing and releasing modified Android firmware, without Google branding whatsoever.

This is all speculation for now, with the WSJ only citing its sources as “people familiar with the matter,” but if true, it would make for an interesting development. The company in question, Cyanogen has been developing Android firmware for a couple of years now, stripping it of its Google affiliation and making it more open than it ever was before. It's gaining in popularity too, with some handset makers, like India's Micromax, set to ship their next-generation of handsets running Cyanogen's Android firmware, rather than Google's latest release.

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Indeed this may be something that catches on with other companies, especially those that would like to promote their own services that compete with Google's. As it stands, many handset makers are forced to promote Google search and other products from the company in order to gain access to the Play Store, Youtube and other Google centric products.

“We’re going to take Android away from Google,” is the famous statement made by Cyanogen CEO, Kirt McMaster. Although this is unlikely to happen overnight, the more open nature of its firmware could well attract a lot of interest from handset makers and third party developers.

It's clear to see why Microsoft would be interested – if indeed it is – as such an operating system would allow it to promote its Bing search engine as a direct competitor of Google, rather than users having to jump through hoops to use it if they do prefer its function or style.

Due to compatibility with existing handsets too, Cyanogen may well stand a better chance of fostering a third mobile community (outside of iOS and Google's Android) than Microsoft does with its Windows Phones.

KitGuru Says: If this turns out to be true, it would make for a very interesting development. Do any of you guys run custom firmware on your handsets?

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