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Android hackers are discussing the creation of a specialist app store, listing software for rooted handsets and other things that even Google won't allow.

Google is the limp-wristed liberal of certification authorities, allowing just about anything into its Android Marketplace. But it's that "just about" that has annoyed some folks in the CyanogenMod ROM team, who have started a discussion about hosting their own application store to fund the development of their alternative Android build.

Android applications aren't nearly as restricted as their iOS contemporaries, but there are still some things they can't do. Notably they can't grab a screenshot, something that prompts tech journalists (among others) to immediately unlock (or "root") their handsets. Applications running on a "rooted" Android handset can be granted access to resources otherwise unavailable.

Some Android users also want to strip out interface shells or spyware dropped in by the manufacturers and/or network operators. That means wiping out the entire installation and replacing it with an unmodified version of Android, with CyanogenMod being the most popular of such versions.

CyanogenMod is perfectly legitimate: Android is an open-source OS so one is allowed to compile one's own instance. Google also turns a blind eye to the use of Android Marketplace and other Google apps on CyanogenMod-powered handsets, once installed separately, though device manufacturers pay to bundle such niceties.

Not that they have to pay: there are other application stores available, and competition is increasing. In the USA Amazon is challenging the pricing model for applications, while GetJar is aggressively pricing applications to encourage use of its store: Sega's ChuChu Rocket will cost you 69 pence from the Android Marketplace, but is legitimately free from GetJar (and well worth either price).

The original alternative Slide Me is still around, and these days users can even take their chances with the entirely-illegal App Planet, which manages to create a copy of the Android Marketplace only stocked with pirate and cracked copies of every application.

A CyanogenMod app store would focus on applications requiring root access, such as screen grabbers and the like, though it's worth noting there's a fair number of those already in the Android Marketplace. The new alternative would also host platform emulators, such as games consoles, but not the games as that would definitely be illegal.

CyanogenMod reckons it has a million users these days, and is having a hard time funding the servers needed to manage and expand that user base. Android was always envisioned as supporting specialist application stores for different groups of users, so it will be interesting to see if this can be made to pay off. ®

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