Earlier in the month, CyanogenMod released an easy way to install its alternative Android on a wide range of devices. It was in the Play store for about two weeks and now Google has asked for it to be removed.
Android is a strange beast - open source and yet in practice heavily customized by the addition of proprietary software and protected by Google acting as the main distributor of apps. This is often enough to drive users to an alternative version of Android, but when you add the simple fact that older devices just don't get the OS updates then it's often a no-brainer. Installing CyanogenMod invalidates any guarantee on the device you might still have in force, but this might be worth it and for older devices it's not really an issue.
The current version of CyanogenMod is based on Android 4.2.2 aka Jelly Bean, but a KitKat version 4.4.x is in the pipeline.
The big problem with CyanogenMod is that it is difficult to install. Not super difficult but end-users are usually scared off as soon as they see the range of choices they have. So enter the CyanogenMod Installer - an app to lead the user through a step-by-step installation of the image they need for their device.
This made it very easy for users to revitalize their abandoned hardware and get a clean install without proprietary software. It was even offered via the Play store and, according to CyanogenMod, it was downaloaded by hundreds of thousands of users proving the demand for such an app was high.
All was well until Google demanded that the app be voluntarily removed from Play or it would be removed. Left no choice CyanogenMod removed the app and explained why in a blog post. At first it seemed that the problem was a breach of the terms of service of the Play store, but later it turned out that it was because any app that modifies hardware must give the user the facility to easily reverse the change and the CyanogenMod installer doesn't do this.
It does seem a bit like a cooked-up reason, however, and many of the comments flying around speculate that either Google might want to keep its version of Android on the hardware or, more likely, some carrier doesn't want its proprietary and limiting software removed.
As well as talk of moving the app to Amazon or some other store, CyanogenMod has the option of adding an uninstall to the installer. If you can't wait you can still download and "sideload" the app directly for yourself. I suppose it is a mark that Android is relatively open, as compared to say iOS or Windows Phone 8, that you can opt to do this by simply selecting an option in the devices setup.
My only complaint about CyanogenMod is that there is invariably no support for the low cost Android devices that I tend to use for hardware projects - Scroll, Viewsonic, etc. It is more a reflection of the huge number of Android tablets on the market than any laziness on the part of the CyanogenMod developers. Checking that any hardware you plan to use is on the CyanogenMod supported list seems like a good idea.