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Microsoft Android Businesses

Microsoft To Invest In Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen 280

An anonymous reader writes The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft plans to be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing for mobile startup Cyanogen Inc. Neither company is commenting on the plan but last week during a talk in San Francisco, Cyanogen's CEO said the company's goal was to "take Android away from Google." According to Bloomberg: "The talks illustrate how Microsoft is trying to get its applications and services on rival operating systems, which has been a tenet of Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella. Microsoft has in the past complained that Google Inc., which manages Android, has blocked its programs from the operating system."
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Microsoft To Invest In Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen

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  • A good thing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @07:58PM (#48936379) Journal
    Waiting for your carrier for an upgrade? One that might never come? Competition is a good thing in this case.
    • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:18PM (#48936775)
      Not always. Even cyanogenmod has abandoned many devices that could still be viable phones today. CM seems to focus mainly on the most popular phones for the latest releases, and in some cases, the devs for a particular make/model of device have just gone MIA, and development stagnates.
      • by erice ( 13380 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:36PM (#48936855) Homepage

        Not always. Even cyanogenmod has abandoned many devices that could still be viable phones today. CM seems to focus mainly on the most popular phones for the latest releases, and in some cases, the devs for a particular make/model of device have just gone MIA, and development stagnates.

        Yes, it seems like most phones are abandoned by cyanogenmod at about the same time the manufacturer does. Certainly, this was the case Mytouch 4G/HTC Glacier. The last manufacturer release (less than a year after I bought the phone) was Gingerbread. The last Cyanogenmod: also Gingerbread.

        They're good with Google's phones and the most popular Samsung phones but anything else is a gamble even if it is supported at the time you buy the phone.

        • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <Jeremy.Lakeman@g ... m minus math_god> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @11:07PM (#48937223)

          Cyanogen mod don't have access to the source code for all of the drivers required to run the hardware. So they have to copy the binaries from the manufacturer.

          If the manufacturer doesn't support new versions of android, with newer linux kernels, there's not much they can do.

          • by greenfruitsalad ( 2008354 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @04:14AM (#48938077)

            this is why i'm waiting for a phone with Intel CPU+GPU. for now, intel's phone cpus come with powervr gpu which is probably the most linux unfriendly gpu there is. anybody remember intel gma 500? i'm not stepping in that sh*t again.

          • And if you want a version of Android that doesn't do this -- that actually does try to reverse-engineer the binary blobs instead -- then you want to support Replicant [wikipedia.org] (although it works on fewer devices than Cyanogenmod right now).

          • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @11:46AM (#48940553)

            True. But how vital is the specific kernel version to the upgrade from, say, Kit-Kat to Jellybean? Google goes with a new kernel for support for new devices - and to otherwise keep up-to-date. But couldn't the AOSP source code to Kit-Kat or Lollipop be built against the kernel used in Jellybean to get a CM ROM that has all the features of the latest Android - but works on otherwise abandoned hardware, using the binary drivers that were produced for that hardware.

            There might even be a cash business for such a service. OEM's abandoned your otherwise viable device? Pay us 10 bucks and we'll upgrade you. Beats having to buy a new phone.

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @11:08PM (#48937227) Homepage Journal

          Yes, it seems like most phones are abandoned by cyanogenmod at about the same time the manufacturer does.

          The sticking point is drivers. Most SoCs are abandoned at about the same time and virtually none of the drivers are Open, let alone Free. If some influential manufacturer keeps using a particular SoC past the usual sunset, then odds are good that they will release a newer version of Android, and then the drivers can be taken from their image and used to roll a newer version of CM for other devices based on the same SoC.

          AFAIK the only GPU with credible OSS drivers is still Mali 400, which is an antique by modern standards. Still works, though. It works well enough to play Q3, IIRC. Most of the rest of the hardware is less well supported than that...

          • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <{atd7} {at} {cornell.edu}> on Friday January 30, 2015 @11:19AM (#48940295) Homepage

            The problem is that unlike on the desktop, the display subsystem on many devices is more than just the GPU. Also, the subcomponents of the display subsystem interact with other subcomponents in such a way that if an OEM makes changes, those changes ripple throughout the whole subsystem.

            The end result is that if one component of the display subsystem (and this includes the camera, since it has hooks into the display subsystem to handle preview and such) is closed-source and deviates from the reference implementation for that platform, it's a nightmare of reverse engineering to get the other components open-sourced.

            That's why, for example, most of the original CyanogenMod maintainers for Samsung Exynos4 devices ditched the platform. Samsung had reference source at Insignal, but it was vastly outdated (Their "ICS" source had significant architectural components that dated back to Gingerbread) and didn't even remotely match what ANY OEM used (Samsung's own handsets did NOT use the "gingerbready" components referenced previously). Getting that source usable with any real device was a nightmare. The kernel wasn't the issue, it was all of the HAL stuff - hwcomposer/gralloc/etc - especially hwcomposer.

            Cyngn (the abbreviation I use to refer to Cyanogen Inc) does have access to all the proprietary goodies that should allow them to support a device very well, but so far, their track record has been to do no better than the OEMs they claim to be trying to provide an alternative.
            Oppo N1 - didn't receive KitKat OTA until November 2014, 1 year after KK was released. Epic fail. Yeah, there were CM11 nightlies, but Cyngn staff will aggressively remind you that community builds (including CM nightlies) are NOT supported
            OnePlus One - Their current state is "average" - many OEMs upated to Lollipop within a month of Google releasing it, Cyngn is at 3 months and counting.

      • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @02:13AM (#48937795) Journal
        The issue is, per this post on Cyanogenmod Forums [cyanogenmod.org]:

        CM devs are consumers first. What this means is that they do not divide up devices among other developers, or assign devices like one would at a job. Developers work in their spare time without monetary compensation. Because of this, the developers are free to work on any device they choose to purchase.

        Now, what does this mean to you? First off, requesting anywhere in the CM forum, the CM Blog, or the Facebook/Google+/Twitter accounts for device XX to be supported is probably a waste of your time and anybody who reads said request. CyanogenMod does not work on device requests as there is no guaranteeing that a current CM maintainer is even interested in the device. Additionally, its not as simple as 'porting' code, the device trees must be coded from scratch and made to work with the AOSP sourced code and CM enhancements. This takes a large amount of time and effort, especially when the device's OEM fails to release the latest version of Android for it. Second, in hoping a worthy developer sees the post and decides to take up the project... well, that is probably just wishful thinking. Many developers do not like interacting with end users (too much finger pointing between both devs and users or anger directed at the devs for something working other than how the user expects - it happens far too often); because of that, many developers don't frequent the forum (or if they do, they only view the forums for the devices they maintain). The best way to get a device official support is not requesting it from the CM team, but learning how to do it yourself or encouraging a maintainer of an unofficial build to submit their code for review.

        So, Cyanogenmod devs will support what strikes their fancy. And if they are no longer interested in a device, it won't be supported any longer. Now if they get financing, maybe this will change as most consumers want some stability and continued support. It is one of the things that could differentiate itself from the phone makers... if they care to. If not, in this regard they won't be any different. And it would be a shame since it is nice to get rid of bloatware.

        The vast majority of people will not port their own devices. They either don't have the time or the technical know-how or nether. I will use the stock OS if it isn't available as a stable CM. In fact I do with my P600 Samsung Note. But even if they did, after reading that sticky from the forum, I am less willing to adopt CM and choose to just root the device instead.

      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        It seems that Cyanogen is focusing on the One Plus One [oneplus.net]. Seeing as how they now have a paying gig it doesn't surprise me that that is where their focus is.
    • Re:A good thing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:51PM (#48936935) Homepage Journal

      you know what's fucking bizarre? the part of nokia that microsoft bought had several android based models on the market(not in usa/euro are athough, in the markets they're available they're outselling windows phones..). but microsoft killed further developments of that line of devices.

      so what the fuck are they meddling with cyanogen? I wouldn't mind having cyanogen for my nokia X though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2015 @07:59PM (#48936383)

    microsoft - we don't want your programs on Android because they suck

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gatkinso ( 15975 )

      Because Chrome isn't a steaming pile of shit that constantly crashes while consuming all resources when it manages to run for longer than 30 seconds.

      • See: "Hyperbole"

        noun: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

      • by s.petry ( 762400 )

        I'm not sure what OS and version of Chrome you are running, but mine never crashes (though I use Opera and Firefox primarily). In fact I work for a pretty large company who uses Google apps for just about everything. While I miss Visio (Google Drawings is like "dia" and very primitive) everything else works just fine.. no crashes, no memory hogging, etc..

        The reason I don't use Chrome is because I don't trust Google, and in most companies I have freedom to choose my web browser.. where the office type appl

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How odd for you to say that since Android itself is a huge steaming pile of shit. Why is Android so slow? Why does it take forever to boot or load anything? Why can't it scroll a simple menu without stuttering? Why does it often go unresponsive to touches? Why does it require twice the CPU and twice the RAM of both Windows Phone and iOS?

      • Android is slow because applications are basically written in Java and run inside an interpreter or a JIT. Then again iOS applications are compiled directly to ARM and after a couple of upgrades the OS is slow as shit too.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will use 640k of ram and a delightful assistant named Clippy.

    • Will use 640k of ram and a delightful assistant named Clippy.

      Clippy: I see you're trying to root your phone...

  • ...but last week during a talk in San Francisco, Cyanogen's CEO said the company's goal was to "take Android away from Google...

    Google has most of the world's internet and Android users where it wants them and that's not good news for Microsoft. Look, how can one ever do without Youtube or the search engine Google? Guess what, you want Youtube, you MUST take Gmail, Calendar, Photos, Docs and all the rest as well. Heck, Microsoft doesn't even have a compelling YouTube alternative!

    I have problems with Google's Android though. Does anyone find that it's native Android apps are kind of cumbersome to use? I specifically point to the SM

    • How many people have said "I really want an android phone, but instead of integrated google search, I want it to search BING."?
    • Guess what, you want Youtube, you MUST take Gmail, Calendar, Photos, Docs and all the rest as well.

      whaa? i watch youtube all the time with a gmail, docs, etc.

      Heck, Microsoft doesn't even have a compelling YouTube alternative!

      whaa? videos.bing.com is a total pornucopia.

  • "Rogue"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:16PM (#48936487) Homepage
    What in the hell? Is Cyanogen "rogue" because they're using the Android Open-Source Project as it was designed? Because that also makes Samsung, Motorola, HTC and every other manufacturer who reskins/alters Android "rogue".
    • Re:"Rogue"? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:34PM (#48936581) Homepage
      I think the idea is that Google, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have all made themselves into a sort of cartel that don't allow the "open source project" to actually be a source of freedom for consumers. Cyanogen is "rogue" because it bucks that system and restores freedom to the project.
      • Cyanogen is "rogue" because it bucks that system and restores freedom to the project.

        So, which devices run CM and have fully open drivers? Or hell, I'll give you the drivers so long as they only have a closed core and the parts that need updating when the kernel is diddled are open.

      • Re:"Rogue"? (Score:5, Informative)

        by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 30, 2015 @12:54AM (#48937517) Homepage Journal

        I think the idea is that Google, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have all made themselves into a sort of cartel that don't allow the "open source project" to actually be a source of freedom for consumers. Cyanogen is "rogue" because it bucks that system and restores freedom to the project.

        Not really. That may be the perception, but it's not true. Google is quite happy to see CM and similar third party ROMs flourish; this is part of why all Nexus devices are unlockable.

        (Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer, and I work on Android, but I'm not a Google spokesperson and this is my opinion, not an official statement.)

        • Re:"Rogue"? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday January 30, 2015 @02:19AM (#48937809) Homepage Journal

          Google is quite happy to see CM and similar third party ROMs flourish

          Flourish or tolerate? Honest question. I've seen entire ROMs stymied by small things Google could/should have done as just a decent vendor, regardless of the ROM in question. For instance, a couple years ago the Droid3 port fizzed because the then-Google-owned Motorola wouldn't talk to anybody about releasing specs to turn on the camera.

          • Google is quite happy to see CM and similar third party ROMs flourish

            Flourish or tolerate? Honest question. I've seen entire ROMs stymied by small things Google could/should have done as just a decent vendor, regardless of the ROM in question. For instance, a couple years ago the Droid3 port fizzed because the then-Google-owned Motorola wouldn't talk to anybody about releasing specs to turn on the camera.

            Flourish.

            Your example just demonstrates that Google really did allow Motorola to operate as a separate OEM, not directly influenced by the Android team. It's also possible that Motorola didn't have the option of releasing the specs because of agreements with the camera manufacturer. (Note that I don't know anything about that specific incident, and hadn't even heard of it until you mentioned it. I do know that Google would like its Nexus devices to be much more open than they are, but can't get there with

        • Re:"Rogue"? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday January 30, 2015 @09:17AM (#48939337) Homepage

          My perception is that Google is fairly open, more so than the others, not locking down the Nexus devices. But on the other hand, their Android partners are really locking things down, and the most generous view of Google is that they're simply powerless to stop it. Often enough, it seems like there are people within Google who favor openness, but the company as a whole is happy to let users' freedoms be restricted so long as it pushes them farther into the Google ecosystem.

          That's my perception, not that Microsoft or Apple, or even Blackberry are any better. Google is the most freedom-loving of the bunch, but still not exactly the rebel freedom-fighting bunch that their fans would sometimes like to paint them as.

          That's my perception, anyway, as an outsider who follows things relatively well.

    • And as for Microsoft's whining about not having access to the OS layer of Android to run it's applications, I suggest they learn what the application layer is and learn to live in it. Having access to every layer of the OS today is why they are still insecure after well over a decade of security people telling them to fix their stuff.

    • They're "rogue" in that they address bug reports by zillions of users that Google ignores, like working OTG support, or Ad-Hoc WiFi.

    • Well, thats better than investing in "Rouge Android Startups"...
    • by khchung ( 462899 )

      That's the first thing that came to my mind also.

      Isn't Android being "open" supposedly one of its major strength? Now someone came and actually try to make use of it "openness" and they are now a "rogue" company?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Cyanogen isn't a start-up either, they are well established and have been providing commercially supported operating systems (e.g. for the OnePlus One) for a while now.

      • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

        Um, by definition they're a start-up. They have only been established as a company for approximately two years, with only around 1.25 of those in public existence.

        "for a while now" - less than a year for OnePlus One, just a tiny bit over a year for the Oppo N1 - which they completely failed to continue updating by not deploying KitKat until after Lollipop was released.

  • pot and kettle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkey-Man2000 ( 603495 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:17PM (#48936495)

    Microsoft has in the past complained that Google Inc., which manages Android, has blocked its programs from the operating system."

    Haha, cry us a river Microsoft. I'm all for an open platform but this investment is just step 1 of their embrace, extend, extinguish operating procedure. What's that quote about how smaller companies should NEVER work with MS?

    • idk, what's the quote.

      • Couldn't remember and google was no help. Let me think more about the context I read it...
        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          There is a whole wikipedia article on the machinations of M$ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org], then there is Embrace, extend and extinguish Embrace, extend and extinguish and there is also Fear, uncertainty and doubt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org], with M$ having a reputation for having mastered it. So the fellows at M$ were pretty naughty but that seems pretty much typical for major corporations when they become dominant, they just automatically turn into a great big old bag of exploitative dicks unti

    • Haha, cry us a river Microsoft.

      Now let us be fair, Microsoft may have published functions which are nothing more than an unpublished function plus a delay while using the internal functions int heir own products, but they haven't done much to keep other people's software from working on their OS — with the possible exception of the probably apocryphal ain't done 'til lotus won't run bit.

    • Re:pot and kettle (Score:4, Informative)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 30, 2015 @12:59AM (#48937525) Homepage Journal

      Microsoft has in the past complained that Google Inc., which manages Android, has blocked its programs from the operating system."

      MS has a bunch of apps in the Play store. https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]

      AFAIK, the only MS app Google has blocked was Microsoft's YouTube app, which violated the YouTube terms of service.

  • Competition is good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jgotts ( 2785 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sttogj)> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:21PM (#48936511)

    I'd like to see Cyanogen succeed because the more competition there is in the smartphone market, the more companies will be pressured to develop new, useful features.

    I bought my first smartphone two years ago last month. It's a Samsung Galaxy S III. It still works great, despite some quirks. I felt like with the Galaxy S III, the smartphone was beginning to take a quantum leap forward in features. Especially for the last year, though, it seems like there isn't much to crow about except for some fingerprint functionality nobody uses. Phones are getting a bit more memory, somewhat faster CPUs, a bit better screens, and improved cameras but you would expect all of these things. In terms of new and interesting features, it seems like we're in a mature market where we've all decided upon what it means for a device to be a smartphone.

    Perhaps Cyanogen will bring some excitement back. At worst, they'll come up with some new ideas that Samsung can license or copy. I'm using Samsung as an example, but I could be talking about HTC or one of the Chinese startups. I don't see a whole lot to distinguish current smartphones (except that Samsung does not permanently glue batteries inside of its products).

    • Phones are getting a bit more memory, somewhat faster CPUs, a bit better screens, and improved cameras but you would expect all of these things. In terms of new and interesting features, it seems like we're in a mature market where we've all decided upon what it means for a device to be a smartphone.

      That's a problem phone makers are facing. Amazon's new fire phone, supposed to be revolutionary, is just some parallax graphics (and a bit of rotation magic).

      When new ideas fail, you do what Apple did: re-skin it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Success via Microsoft will not produce 'competition'. They're not getting 'free money'. It always comes with lots of strings.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        My guess would be:

        Microsoft is 'helping' Cyanogen to add some kind of cloud service.

        Basically, putting you data in the Microsoft cloud.

        I assume Cyanogen doesn't mind, because it's optional.

        Well, that is my guess.

    • by hughbar ( 579555 ) on Friday January 30, 2015 @01:31AM (#48937637) Homepage
      As a bit of an eco-nazi, I don't see any of this as 'good', more 'features' every year, none of them particularly useful [do you really want to watch crappy music videos on a tiny screen, judging by my commute people do though] and more phones made/destroyed/in landfill.

      Actually cell phones are a nuisance anyway, people can't walk and text or phone and text, so they bump into you. On bicycles, they risk life and limb [theirs and unhappily others] in London by using headphones [though admittedly a walkman or ipod is just as 'good' for this].

      Despite what you see above, I love tech, having been in/around it for 40 years, but I really, really believe we need to step back from our current destructive and rather purposeless [except for making cash, of course] product cycles. Fat chance.
      • by jambox ( 1015589 )
        Landfill?! I don't know about you but I have pretty much every old phone I ever owned in a drawer at home. Includes a nokia 8310, a Sony W500 (sadly), another sony-erickson that seems to date from about 1997. Apart from my beloved Razr which someone stole...
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:26PM (#48936535) Homepage

    You know those Godzilla movies where the monsters stomp around Tokyo causing more destruction than WWII, destroying everything around them?

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:33PM (#48936573) Homepage

      Balmer isn't head of Microsoft anymore....

      • Remember, no matter what happens at the end of the movie, and who or what is destroyed, there can always be a sequel. And then there are the reboots, and new actors stepping into existing roles. How many times has there been a new Batman, or Joker, or James Bond?

        So just because Balmer has decided to go throw chairs on a basketball court, that doesn't mean that Microsoft can't gen up a new super villain. Just sayin...

  • Plan B (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:30PM (#48936555)
    Is Microsoft preparing a Plan B for when they finally give up on Windows Mobile?
    • Re:Plan B (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:43PM (#48936619) Homepage

      I think this is right. They're making more investments in getting their apps on iOS and Android. I think this investment is an indication that they're interested in having their own Android distribution (or one that they can at least partner with) which will allow them control while maintaining application compatibility.

      And if so, I'd say that's a smart move. It's probably not a full plan yet, but more of a hedge while they try to push mobile application development by decreasing the barriers between development for Windows desktop, Windows Tablet, and Windows Phone. One way or another, they need a mobile platform with apps.

      • Note that due to patent royalties, Microsoft already makes $5-$15 from every Android device. [howtogeek.com] That adds up to more than they make from Windows Phone.

      • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
        If that's their goal, I wouldn't be surprised to see them buy Xamarin. It'd give them a serious foothold into the Android and iOS development space using their own technology and language as a basis. It would also go a long way towards cementing their claims to be taking Mono more seriously, since Xamarin sponsors Mono.
        • I would actually like to see an Android distribution with a dotNet VM on it. Right now, developing with C# for Android is a bit of a PITA since each app must bundle its own third party VM.

  • ...considering that Android -- at its core -- is a form of Linux.
  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @08:58PM (#48936679)
    Why should things be any different this time?
  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday January 29, 2015 @09:11PM (#48936737)

    Please let them walk into a huge secret patent thicket which serves them green, green justice.

  • Just rename cyanogenmod as SCO-cyanogenmod so that the old success will rub off on the new one too.
  • Google had problems with getting updates out to devices, so they decided to move many functions of Android the OS, into a Google Services library that could be upgraded when the core OS could not...

    But doesn't that leave Google kind of vulnerable? In theory a different company could create their own variant of that library, take things the way they want...

    I'm surprised Samsung at least has not done that, perhaps Microsoft is considering it.

    • Google had problems with getting updates out to devices

      And with just a little bit of developer money, so many devices out there could be running a safe, secure version of Android instead of being merely abandoned and left vulnerable ("you luddites running six-month-old phones...").

      I've been waiting to see a nonprofit that would sponsor such work and then sell decent smartphones to people who could use them to benefit themselves economically. People throw away ("recycle") perfectly good hardware because the

  • Microsoft has already got their hands bloody with Android, due to their FAT file system licensing, among other things. If anything Google/Android should be distancing itself from Microsoft, not letting them take over one aftermarket OS at a time.
  • Microsoft has in the past complained that Google Inc., which manages Android, has blocked its programs from the operating system

    When was the last time evil Microsoft blocked a program from running on one of its platforms.

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