Nintendo Switch would have run Android, Cyanogen refused

There's a rather harsh saying that goes "beggars can't be choosers". Apparently, that doesn't apply to Cyanogen, Inc. The once esteemed startup has practically descended into ignominy, which effectively ended up killing the most popular Android ROM in the market. You would think that company would jump at the prospect of having its CyanogenOS powering what is now the most popular gaming device, Nintendo Switch. But in typical Kirk McMaster fashion, the CyanogenOS CEO supposedly more than just told Nintendo "no". He told them, instead, to "stick it".

The revelation came in a Tweet that has since then been edited to sound less harsh. The Internet, of course, never forgets. Especially when it comes to strong statements which Cyanogen's outspoken chief exec is famous for. In his version of the events, McMaster said that Nintendo approached them in the early days of the company and wanted to use CyanogenOS for a certain portable. Given the Switch is the only portable Nintendo has been making for years, there's really no need to guess.

That never came to pass, of course, but McMaster's refusal is understandable to some extent, even if it looks outrageous at first glance. Supposedly, Nintendo would have required heavy customizations to the Android-based OS, including locking it down. Whether McMaster was championing the cause of open source (unlikely) will perhaps never be known, but on the business level it would mean that no one would probably know it was CyanogenOS running underneath.

The Nintendo Switch instead ended up using a custom kernel. some say FreeBSD, with some bits of Android. The latter isn't exactly surprising considering those bits are used by any OS that wants to run on mobile devices, like Jolla's Sailfish or even Canonical's Ubuntu Touch. The custom OS on the gaming handheld is completely locked down. For example, it has a rather old web browser that's only accessible through some hacking.

Long story short, Cyanogen might have missed an opportunity to have a major business partner that would have saved it from its current financial and business situation. Then again, it would have meant that CyanogenOS would be a totally different beast from what it was envisioned, not that the current situation is any better. The company just wasn't desperate enough to bite the bullet back then. One can only wonder if that opinion has changed now.

SOURCE: @Kirk McMaster