Google acquired Andy Ruby’s startup Android in 2005, and the company was scheduled to release the first Android phone by the end of 2007. But according to a Google engineer, the company had to start over on Android after seeing the iPhone for the first time.
This piece of information comes via a new book called Dogfight by Fred Vogelstein that describes the smartphone war based on conversations with Apple and Google employees.
Google engineers worked 60-80 hours a week for two years to create an Android phone codenamed Sooner, that looked like a BlackBerry phone, with a hardware keyboard and a small screen. But all of them were completely shocked by how advanced the iPhone was, after seeing the device for the first time.
From an excerpt of the book published in The Atlantic:
Chris DeSalvo’s reaction to the iPhone was immediate and visceral. “As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted one immediately. But as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’”
“What we had suddenly looked just so . . . nineties,” DeSalvo said. “It’s just one of those things that are obvious when you see it.”
Former Android chief, Andy Rubin’s reaction to the iPhone keynote was similar:
Rubin was so astonished by what Jobs was unveiling that, on his way to a meeting, he had his driver pull over so that he could finish watching the webcast.
“Holy crap,” he said to one of his colleagues in the car. “I guess we’re not going to ship that phone.”
Google’s Sooner Android phone
According to the excerpt, the Android team quickly “reconfigured” its objectives to make a phone like the iPhone, that was codenamed “Dream.”
The HTC Dream
Google’s “inspiration” didn’t go unnoticed at Apple. It started a long-lasting feud between the two companies, resulting in the then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigning from Apple’s board, and a number of patent infringement lawsuits being filed by Apple against Android manufacturers all over the world.
Steve Jobs was livid in expressing his dislike for Android. He wanted to “destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product” and called Android chief Andy Rubin a “Big arrogant f**k.” Apple did get Google to change several key Android features, but that didn’t stop the OS from capturing 80 percent smartphone marketshare worldwide.