Could an Android fork emerge as the third major mobile OS?

The Verge reports this week that Cyanogen, a longtime maker of Android-based software, is making a bid for the mainstream by developing its own version of Google’s mobile operating system. While the company has gained serious traction in tech circles with its free replacement firmware CyanogenMod, it announced this week that is has raised $7 million from investors to create a forked version of Android that will appeal to mass-market users. Cyanogen has yet to discuss in detail how it plans to monetize the firmware, which will remain free, but CEO Kirt McMaster said his company wants to build “great services you can’t get anywhere else.”

Of course, Cyanogen is only the latest company looking to create its own ecosystem within the larger Android world. Amazon continues to do so with its line of Kindle tablets and Amazon Appstore for Android as well as its own in-app ad business. And Samsung is pursuing the mobile enterprise with KNOX, a lineup of Android-based devices and services featuring improved security, and is working with EA to boost the number of Android-based games in its existing app store. Those efforts so far are usually lumped together under the Android umbrella, but — to one extent or another — they’re individual ecosystems. It will be interesting to see if one breaks out of the pack to emerge as the third major mobile platform.