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Cyanogen's Microsoft deal includes removable apps and 'contextual' suggestions

There aren't a whole lot of Android users out there who enjoy seeing the words "Microsoft apps included" when it comes to their devices — and this goes back a long, long way — and power users who use CyanogenMod and Cyanogen OS are more likely than most to react negatively to that sort of partnership. As a result, news that Cyanogen and Microsoft are partnering to include Bing services, Outlook, and other apps on Cyanogen OS has caused a fair bit of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing.

Given Microsoft's sordid history when it comes to Android and Samsung's decision to make Microsoft's apps disable-only on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, concern is well deserved.

After a brief email conversation with the folks at Cyanogen, however, some of that initial concern appears largely unwarranted. Here's what's up:

Cyanogen OS 12

The big concerns when dealing with something a significant as plans to include multiple Microsoft apps onto an otherwise clean and reasonably bloat-free fork of Android like Cyanogen largely focus on whether or not this partnership will ruin the very things that drove users to the experience in the first place. As it turns out, Cyanogen's integration plans with Microsoft sound a little different from the Microsoft/Android experiences we've seen already. For starters, the Microsoft apps being included in Cyanogen OS will be removable — and not the "oh just go and disable it in settings" kind of removable. You'll be able to get rid of those apps and use whatever you want as your default, and while that's an unnecessary step for folks who aren't interested in Microsoft apps it's worlds better than being stuck with the apps permanently. Bloatware may be largely misunderstood (or, rather, interpreted however the user chooses), but it's still a pain for those who know exactly what they want.

"Users will be able to remove apps they don't want to use. Cyanogen OS is designed to be an open platform, and customers ultimately decide what apps they want as their defaults." — Cyanogen Inc.

Perhaps more important than the option to use or remove these Microsoft apps on Cyanogen is how the content will be presented. When asked whether the Microsoft apps would show up in an OTA like we saw with SwiftKey not too long ago, it seemed as though that decision hadn't been made yet. Instead, a Cyanogen rep explained "Microsoft apps will be surfaced contextually, and will always be downloadable." which suggests a suggested apps system similar to what HTC offers on the M9 (for better or worse). No one seems ready to discuss how this system will work or what context clues will be used, but given the products Cyanogen has agreed to integrate into their platform it's not hard to guess search, email, and productivity will be a big part of it.

Ultimately, this decision leaves users with a couple of simple choices. While it's probably worth waiting to see if these changes affect you in any way, Cyanogen claims to have no plans to make Microsoft's apps a part of their CyanogenMod community releases. It's not clear whether or not these changes will arrive in Cyanogen OS 12.1, but "near future" is closest date you can expect for this particular launch. Throughout all of this, Cyanogen is focused on a single message — that their flavor of Android is all about choice, and offering an alternative to Google's core apps and services is a part of that message. Microsoft may not be your cup of tea, but creating a complete package that serves as a viable alternative to Google's services isn't a bad thing, and as long as Cyanogen isn't trying to force one ecosystem or the other on users it'll be interesting to see how this plan plays out.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

54 Comments
  • I would be fine with the Microsoft apps on my phone. I use most of them anyway.
  • I agree, they are very useful and the new MS under Nadella is way more pro consumer than ever. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Your profile says you use a Lumia 920. So, of course, you use most of Microsoft's apps.
  • I just don't want bing
  • I don't even see why would people need a justification on this.
    Google forcing their apps down Android users throats is OK, but Cyanogen forcing Microsoft ones isn't? I don't think anyone should be forced to have a suite of Microsoft apps on their phone that they can't remove...but I also don't think I should be prevented from getting rid of the plethora of useless Google apps that comes bundled with my Xperia for no reason other than "Google wants it". In that sense, I think Cyanogen is right: freedom of choice is the most important. Which is why I hope the European Commission, with the recent investigation on Android, puts an end to what Google has been doing by forcing their apps on OEMs without the ability to completely remove them (it's OK to have them pre-installed. It's not OK to have them locked so that you can't *easily* uninstall them)
  • completely agree. However.... I still dont like CM. I was using CM back in the G1 days and now they seem like just a bunch of corporate pricks. And IMO, their software has gone down hill too. I cant remember the last cm build i kept on my phone over a week really
  • That's sad to hear. I admit to only having used CM since the KitKat builds, but the experience I've had was little short of fantastic. As for the corporate crap, they made a bold move saying that Android is being ruined by Google. They are making some seriously poor decisions. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well, than do not buy Android phones. Few other choices out there. Hell, no one actually needs a smartphone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • How about because Google owns all the content of Google Play, the stuff that people actually want? Apple is able to force all their own content on iOS users, and theyre even more aggressive about doing it too. Why isn't the EU going after Apple? Their abuse is blantly worse then Google's.
  • Because as far as I can tell, you get forced to use Apple's ecosystem on Apple devices, that's why. From what I read, there isn't a complain from the EU on Nexus devices, since those are considered Google devices.
  • So what about Windows phones from non-microsoft OEMs? I was under the impression that the Windows store was more like the Apple one. No other way to get apps. Is that not true?
  • Yes, but from what I read, Lumia devices account for over 90% of sales. And WP only has, I think, 4% market share..so hardly a position of dominance.
  • Microsoft doesn't lock apps like OneDrive, Skype etc like Google does. None of the MSN apps are tied to the system either.
    Point is, Microsoft reduced to a minimum the apps you can't remove. Google doesn't. And don't tell me stuff like Google Play Movies is essential to Android to work. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Android Europe Marketshare: ~70%
    iOS Europe Marketshare: ~18% Anti-trust cases aren't done against minority players, just those with a majority.
  • Yes just like iPhone core apps are removable and Microsoft apps are removable on its operating system as well. Blackberry? All of its core apps are removable as well. And people are definitely forced to use Android. It's crazy that Google would put its core apps on its own operating system. And then give people the choice to use another part of that same operating system freely as they wish like Amazon and CyanogenMod. Essentially allowing competitors to compete against itself, that it creates for them to use in the first place. Obviously there are plenty of forks of iOS and Windows Phone because they also give away their operating system freely. Just the other day I was just noticing my best friends iOS phone that had no Apple core apps on it. It's a shame that people love Google Apps so much that other companies who are minority voice compared to the billions of others who actually like Google Apps are the main complainers. Translation: we are extremely mad at you google for making such excellent apps that the people want. The apps are so great that you are able to leverage it heavily and most Androids fail without them. We also really want to keep Android as forked as possible. Because streamlining Android is a complete threat to the rest of us. We want to fork Android but we still want your apps so people like our version. We don't want the version that doesn't come with your apps. We are bringing up a formal complaint on the behalf of all those people. Brought to you by Microsoft a few handful of ungrateful developers and other evil companies that are behind these complaints. Signed: no one from the general John Q public. Via Nexus 6: "Takin updates for granted."
  • Uhhhh, I actually can remove Microsoft apps from my Windows Phone. The only apps I really can't remove, understandably, are the phone and text messaging apps. Oh, and the OS license is free as well. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's great. That means that everyone else should just switch over to Windows then since they can remove core apps. Because clearly millions and millions of people are wishing they could delete Google core apps. I'm sure they don't have to do with most of the success of Android anyways. It's pretty amazing that the ONLY two apps you can't COMPLETELY remove from a Windows Phone is the texting and the phone. Via Nexus 6: "Takin updates for granted."
  • You seem hurt. All 332 did was state that the default Microsoft apps can be removed. And it should be that way with Google apps too, and you can also include there carrier apps (AT&T, I'm looking at you).
  • Sorry that I misunderstood what he said. I thought he was stating that only 2 apps are NOT removable from it. Meaning that all other apps are completely removable, save the phone and text. Obviously it says something totally different alluding to my "being hurt" because of my misinterpretation of his words. Via Nexus 6: "Takin updates for granted."
  • They're probably not the ONLY two. I just can't think of any others off the top of my head. I tend to switch back and forth between android and WP because I'm addicted to clash of clans. Most popular apps are either already on WP or have a third party developer, but you can't really make a third party game. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think Android is great, I love the Google Apps but I need to clarify a couple of points. Android is open source and Google did not create it, they just currently develope it. Neither does Google own it as it is free for anyone to use. That's why Amazon and custom ROM developers like Cyanogen, Paranoid Android or Pac Man Rom etc can fork their own version.
  • Google does own it. They bought it awhile back..
  • What makes Android run is the Linux kernel and there is plenty of GNU stuff in there too. Google cannot "own" those. So Google does not own all of what Android is..... because it is built on the back of mostly FOSS stuff. And Linux is also at the heart of almost all Google's zillions of servers that provide all those Google services. Let's give FOSS some credit where it is due.
  • Android is open source, you can't own open source software. Google is currently the main developer of it. However they do have a powerful hold over Android through their apps and Google play. That's why Amazons has struggled because you don't have Google's eco system available to you as you are stuck with Amazon's own store. If you want to check this just Google "who owns Android" lol
  • Google and Amazon did/do use open source. From that, they develop binaries which aren't open source: Chrome vs. Chromium in Linux: Chrome definitely is a binary--in Linux and everything else. Kindle is a binary too. Certainly, I might prefer Linux tablets and perhaps phones--at least decent availability: All Linux software is gratis--including many 3rd-party binaries--Linux developers likely wouldn't foist fixed system memory-robbing commercial apps upon us as Google, Kindle, and Apple do.. A Linux device might not have the cloud feature included as the others do--the cloud has its own problems and vulnerabilities. Biz guys and old Palm guys don't like the cloud--they do like the power of Android devices and, of course, did change to them (discussions on jpilot.org). No "flinging" through the cloud to TVs with Linux, perhaps. Open source has raised all boats: I'm, pretty confident that the volunteer developers for open source develop apps for tablets and phones, too. In PC and Linux Chrome, several folders may not be deleted: Promotions, updates, etc.--this indicates the same aim as enforced apps in Android--the limited nature of device memory in portable devices makes enforced apps very unfortunate and hated. Lack of memory in devices is keenly related to this issue: That has much to do with mutual hate for Samsung (right?!): Apple and Amazon in particular appear to hate the company--they refuse even to provide slots. When Samsung and some Android tabs start to offer 128 and 256 GB, native--maybe even more--Apple and Amazon then will prove horrified and ashen--the tribute to Samsung then must be paid immediately!: New devices hurriedly must be thrown together, given new architecture: Their customers likely will purchase them--at least fairly soon afterwards. The deliberate, planned, and "coiffed" media-heavy model premiers from such companies will prove fuzzy, faint, and nostalgic memories--akin to family Christmases from long ago. That seems to prove inevitable, and soon!--I'll laugh my head off! It's past time to give Samsung its due: Cooperation long ago would have proven wise--this conversation (repeated so often) wouldn't have proven as bitter. Neither may any of the companies get around pesky and clunky glass optics--nor mechanical baffles for sound. Apple wants to put interchangeable lenses on their phones and tabs--that's not going to prove easy--perhaps its not even desirable. Neither is it something which Foxconn may (or should) pull off: How inconvenient!
  • Yeah, Google *does* own Android (they bought it out). AOSP is what's caused forked development like Cyanogen(Mod), Paranoid Android, and all the other gazillion different Android-based ROMs there are out there. Yes, OEMs can put out variations of Android (see: TouchWiz, Sense, LG UI, etc) but are required to put Google Apps (gApps) on their phone in order to get "certified" by Google (and thus, having a "legitimate" Android OS). Cyanogen(Mod)/PA/Etc are (were) independent developers that forked off on their own. Due to them not (originally) shipping with mobile handsets, they were exempt to the requirement of gApps being installed.
  • I hope you are in Europe because even if the EU finds Google guilty it won't change how Google and Android operate in the US.
  • So Google should just work on building and improving Android year after year to make zero money? They already give it away for free - the compromise is that you will use their apps and search. That's how they make money. It is ridiculous to expect them to continue to develop Android and get zero out of it.
  • this is lot better than i thought. now that one plus one is out of the equation its even lower
  • Whatever Cyanogen. I hate you for joining hands with the most dangerous devil... Posted from Mi3W via the Android Central App
  • Godzilla? Posted
  • That would be Apple nowadays. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Why Apple, no one is the most evil devil. Google seems to be running that criteria. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Let's be honest. At this point, people aren't choosing an OS as much as they're choosing an ecosystem. A lot of people complain about Apple Maps. Why shouldn't they be able to uninstall it in favor of Google Maps if they so choose? Microsoft rightfully got in trouble for not allowing people to remove IE from Windows in the past. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I hope that they will give a choice of using it or uninstalling it. Having the option to disable is not enough.
  • Did you even read the article ? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes, I was referring to this:
    "For starters, the Microsoft apps being included in Cyanogen OS will be removable — and not the "oh just go and disable it in settings" kind of removable. "
    That's why I say I hope they will act this way. It's ok to bundle apps if that's what helping them continue working on the rom, as long as I can remove them.
  • Looks to me more like an open delaration of war on google. A step further towards google free android.
  • Wow, there's a lot of unwarranted concern here. I have an Android phone and Google forces me to have Hangouts, Play Music, Newsstand, etc and I use none of them. Yet Google gets the pass. Microsoft's morbid history with Android? Don't think you mean the Microsoft Garage initiative, free Office apps, etc. I think Cyanogen made a choice that baffled many because it was unexpected, but you cannot argue that Microsoft's approach to the deal is to be as available as possible and also as optional as possible. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No one is forcing you to buy or use anything. This isn't Obamacare. Do not buy a Android phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • There was no other viable way for MS to get on the platform. Cyanogen is only using AOSP so the core apps like maps, app store, etc are not there. They could have made their apps mandatory but it would kill the Cyanogen project since most people would not like it. Plus a move like that would just be bad PR. Making as an option like downloading Google apps to Cyanogen is the only way they could have gone without it being a big issue.
  • Oh shut up sheesh Posted via the ACA on NEXUS 6
  • That's great! Saves me from downloading them anyways. I'll just have to uninstall outlook Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • fine by me, coming from windows phone it's nice to see them supporting Andriod (and in most cases more than wp)
  • So.... Instead of creating another forked androidOS, since Cyanogen feels its creators don't know what they are doing with it. Why don't they ditch the OS that allowed them to gain such a "respected" name, and create their own from scratch. Then make it open source so everyone can create their own forks and take it away from them? Oh, that's right. Because the hand that fed them is the only hand they know
  • Google currently develop Android, however they didn't create it or own it and as it's open source anyone can take the code and do what they want with it. I use Custom Roms and also choose to install almost every Google app because they are great. It's the crap that the OEMs and Carriers add that bloats your phone. Though I do have a LG G3 running Lolipop which I've not rooted and the LG apps are actually useful for change.
  • Are you implying Google created Android from scratch? You do know that at the HEART of Android is *LINUX*. And Linux was not developed nor is it owned by Google. And there is a hell of a lot of other FOSS code in Android that was not developed by Google. The primary reason parts of Android (ASOP) is open source is exactly because it contains so much FOSS in it already, and all THAT code *requires* being kept open source.
  • Google is replacing AOSP apps with its own proprietary apps for its ecosystem, thus the AOSP versions aren't getting updated much by Google anymore. -1 for Cyanogen Google APIs are implemented so as to make it harder for non-google approved devices to run certain apps. -1 for Cyanogen If an OEM creates a fork of android that breaks any of the rules of the OHA, they lose the ability to use the Google licensed APIs. -1 Cyanogen Basically Cyanogen OS will have to focus on being on phones that Google does not certify if they truly wish to be free of google. Which means they will probably have to stay with Chinese manufacturers that are not part of the OHA. The only appstore at the moment that has the backing to keep up with Google's app setup (besides iOS of course) is Amazon. Samsung has the funds, but they need developers to add Samsung SDK, which will probably be harder to implement. Eh, this venture looks bleak in the long run.
  • Also read http://www.ramastech96.blogspot.in/2015/04/why-google-should-be-scared-o...
  • These articles never answer this question :
    Why would Google continue to develop Android if everyone was using AOSP? Android would die if this happened. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sorry wasn't able to reply and yes this is a very good question. To be frank Google has already stopped much of development for AOSP. Several stock AOSP apps have not been updated for a long time and have been rebranded as Google apps and uploaded on the Play Store. My assumption is that Android is already open i.e AOSP. If everyone starts using AOSP Google will have no financial incentive to invest in Android. At such a situation the companies reaping most of the benefits from AOSP would develop some OS similar to Android and push it to their devices. For example how Galaxy Gear originally ran on AOSP but was later updated to Tizen.
  • Guys, no forces an OEM to bundle GApps when they put android on a device. Look at China, there are hundreds of millions of Android devices without a single GApp. However if an OEM wants to have the Play Store then Google understandably has rules. Would I like the power to uninstall all apps without root? Hell yes. But in reality these bundled apps are in the system partition anyway so you gain nothing over disabling them and yes all apps should be disablable.
    I love CM and although the behaviour hasn't been exemplary, I think it is cool the Cyanogen Inc exits and I wish them success.
    No company is "evil" or at least any more "evil" than another. They are capitalist entities so they are all out to screw you. But ask your self this "would we have the SGS6 under a world communist regime"? And as a life long socialist I must unfortunately answer " no". Posted via the Android Central App
  • Seriously, no company is more evil than another. Microsoft was the bottom of the barrel when it came to comparisons of "evil" in tech. Now it's probably Apple because of using cheap labour & child labour forces but do not ever forget that Microsoft was involved in murder as well as condemning "free software". M$ financed the SCO litigation against IBM which of course failed but damaged free software severely from a public perspective & if you believe the wonderful, Bill Gates wasn't involved, then you're a fool...
  • Wow Cyanogen, you've just killed yourself. In league with the scum of the tech-universe. You used to have respect but this is your death-knell as it was for Nokia...