Android users who want a custom ROM*, but are turned off by Cyanogenmod's attempts to go commercial, now have another option in the form of the newly-launched OmniROM.
OmniROM comes from several of those involved in CyanogenMod, who lost interest when those in charge of the most popular replacement firmware committed the cardinal sin of trying to turn a buck, so now we have competing ROMs for Android devices – offering more choice than ever.
Users replace their supplied ROM (strictly speaking a ROM image) to enable additional features, or remove things their manufacturer has decided to include, or get a new version of Android working on old hardware which isn't officially supported any more.
Both OmniROM and CyanogenMod are descended from the Android Open Source Project. Before the community congealed around Cyanogenmod there were a handful of alternatives, but most died off or at least shrunk as Cyanogenmod answered the needs of the niche community.
At least until last month, when the team in charge of the project set up Cyanogen Inc with $7m in ventuer capital and a deal with handset-manufacturer Oppo to preload the OS into its handsets. That upset some of the community, who seemed to feel the new company was profiting from their volunteered efforts.
Most notable was the camera application, Focal, which had proved a popular feature of Cyanogen but disappeared when the author was asked to license the app for commercial use. Focal's developer is now on the OmniROM team.
OmniROM will be hoping to gather deserters from CyanogenMod, even if their first version only works on the Google Nexus range and a few Sony devices. The team over at Cyanogen Inc (and those VC backers who stumped up the $7m) are hoping that broad device support will make it viable as a commercial operation.
Both are currently competing for a niche market at best, as most Android users are quite happy with the Google-backed ROM which comes pre-installed. Making money from a handful of hobbyists and hackers was always going to be tough for Cyanogen Inc, and OmniROM just made it a whole lot tougher. ®
* Custom OS image installed into the ROM area of your phone.