Cyanogen may be getting some help for its fork of Android from an unlikely source: Microsoft. The Redmond-based software company is planning to take part in a $70 million round of equity funding in the company as a minority investor, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The round would value Cyanogen, which has offices in Seattle and Palo Alto, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and provide the company with more fuel to challenge Google for control of Android. While the operating system is technically open source, Google has frustrated manufacturers by requiring them to make google apps and google search the default experience in order to get access to things like the Google Play Store and other apps.
Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster reportedly said that more than 50 million people use Cyanogen on their phones instead of Google’s default flavor of Android. In addition to Cyanogen’s 80 employees, the company says that it has 9,000 volunteers also working on the operating system’s code.
To spread its operating system, Cyanogen is working with a variety of hardware manufacturers to get its version of Android pre-installed on new phones like the OnePlus One and new phones from Indian smartphone maker Micromax.
The funding round would come more than a year after a $22 million Series B round of funding for the company that was led by Andreessen Horowitz. Other investors in Cyanogen include Redpoint Ventures, Benchmark and Chinese tech giant Tencent.
Representatives for Cyanogen and Microsoft declined to comment on this report.