The Smartphone Wars: CyanogenMOD Rising

CyanogenMOD, the third-party, fully-open, bloatware-free port of Android, has recently passed a million installs. And there’s talk of creating an underground Market app for CyanogenMOD to distribute apps that the cell carriers and the MPAA/RIAA don’t want you to have.

Set this against Apple’s mind-bogglingly greedy and evil new Eula for iBooks, and it couldn’t be clearer what the ultimate stakes in the smartphone wars are.

Even in the short term, CynogenMOD’s numbers, and the plan for the Underground Market, and the wideapread revulsion against the iBooks EULA are a big deal – they’re going to crank up the pressure on cell carriers and various other malefactors in interesting ways. But maybe the most important thing CyanogenMOD’s numbers tell us is that there is, in fact, a mass market for freedom.

Lots of people, including all the world’s Apple apologists, contend that it isn’t so. They insist that almost everyone is actually contented and better off in walled gardens – that the only people who care about software and device freedom are a tiny fringe of grognards. A million installs are now saying “Fuck that noise!”

Objectively, a million isn’t greatly different from 900K – and it’s only one percent of even the U.S. smartphone userbase. Still, “million” is an important psychological threshold. It’s where marketers and product planners and even politicians start to take you seriously. And it won’t stop there; a million installs recruited without marketing and in the face of the effort required to install CM means we can expect strong endogenous growth in the future.

About a million people – actually, when I checked just now, it was 1,096,279 – have said “Enough!”. They’re not even willing to tolerate even the relatively light restrictions of carrier Android, let alone Apple’s beautifully-decorated jail cells. A million people!

This renews my hope – not that I was feeling defeated before, mind you, not with Android probably reaching simple majority market share right about now. But it’s always nice when reality confirms that the downshouters and control freaks and MAAFIAAsi and glassy-eyed evangelists for the Cult Of Steve Jobs Or Someone Like Him are wrong. Hugely, desperately, finally wrong. There really is a market for liberty out there; it’s vast and it’s growing. This genie is not going to be stuffed back in the bottle.

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