Most people reading this have already rooted and installed a custom ROM. There's a good chance you already are using Cyanogenmod (CM). This type of modification to a device allows the user some freedom and personal customization that the stock carriers inhibit; it allows the user to experience the device at its full potential.
Well, it looks like Cyanogen Inc is reaching out to those who may not have the time, ability, or know-how to play with all the tweaks and sit down and ROM, but want its usability and features. While you may have Cyanogenmod currently installed on your device, the version you carry now is the "Community Edition". Opposite the implication of its name, the Pro Edition is for the beginners. And it is very important to note here that "pro" does not indicate any financial obligation. There is no charge for this version. It is simply a term to denote a different method or process of installation. In this regard, the Pro version acts as an installer. Some of the abilities will be more limiting than the Community Edition and it will act as an OEM ROM, but with the exception that it's yours, not the carriers. While the Community version will come pre-rooted, the pro version will be issued with more security features and will be signed with private keys; and although root is off, it is apparently easy to enable. In addition, it will be updated automatically (roughly every couple of weeks) for build stabilization. Cyanogenmod states on their website:
"...Instead, this is the build that is targeted at those not comfortable enough with the process to do it themselves, the exact same people who an installer is beneficial. These builds will be signed with our own private keys and shipped as 'user' builds (much like the stock firmware that came with your device). This isn't a fork of the Community Edition or the CyanogenMod Project as a whole, just a more secure build..."
The Cyanogenmod team wants to focus on choice for the consumer, not financial propagation. Whether you select CM or another ROM, their main goal is to offer a choice and the ability to turn your device into what it should be... your device. If a user does decide to install CM, this, in no way, locks them into anything. If that same user decides to go to another OS, there is nothing in the way. The Pro version is currently being beta tested by over 3500 testers but is expected to hit the Play Store sometime "in the coming weeks." This is a huge step for many who have been putting off installing a custom ROM for some time.
All you will need to install this ROM is a phone with an unlocked or unlockable bootloader. Download an app and run it. This will install the latest version of CM without having to connect to PC or play the 'back and forth' game that has dissuaded many users prior.
There will be some new things coming to both versions of CM as well (some have already begun rolling out). The first of these is the user's ability to set up a CM Account. There are a few beneficial features to this action. The CM Account will allow the user to remotely wipe his/her handset (say in the case of phone loss or theft). It will also allow the user to remotely find his/her handset. Much like a service offered by Google, it really offers the user the ability of device management on a larger scale including, but not limited to things such as cross-device syncing and secure cloud storage. These are all large steps for the custom ROM user. The CM team states that they will also be introducing new APIs that are geared specifically for CM. These APIs will allow "framework level functionality" to assist app developers. Again, stated by Cyanogen:
"If we can enable users to have more control over their phones while at the same time allowing application developers to build new powerful and unique experiences, then we've reached our goals."
A few more features coming to CM are Universal Screen casting, Live Folders, Recent conversations, and more. The Universal Screen Casting works much like ChromeCast, allowing for remote display. Live Folders are self-populating (I assume much like Thumb's Up Labs' "Aviate" launcher). And the Recent Conversations is a process whereby the user will be automatically directed to the previously used conversation app when attempting a specific contact.
And finally, come some time in November (alleged time speculation), the Oppo N1 will be shipped with CM pre-installed! This will make it the first Android device to do so. And that's right around my birthday ~wink wink nudge nudge, AH editors~ .
While I am typically not a rooter/custom ROM installer, I may give the pro version a try just to check it out. It sounds like an interesting and much needed concept that, in my opinion, should have and could have been implemented long ago. At the very least, let's hope it gets more people to realize that they do not have to stick with what their carriers tell them; that they do have freedom of choice; and that they do own their own device, despite what shows up on their bills.