|Andy Rubin - Android founder and Senior VP|
Mobile at Google. Image: Stephen Shankland/CNET
That date, long before the release of the first Android-packing handset or the announcement of Apple's iPhone, shows a certain prescience by the startup's founders about the direction smartphones were destined to take.
Interestingly, Andy Rubin had links with Apple prior to Android Inc's foundation, initially as an engineer at Apple Computer and later at an Apple subsidiary called General Magic where he was tasked with development of an operating system and user interface for future mobile devices.
The fledgling company, subsequently spun off from the mothership, had attracted investment from a number of large consumer electronics companies interested in the mobile devices field – something that wasn't missed by Apple.
At that time, Steve Jobs had been unceremoniously booted from Apple and then-CEO John Sculley, sensing that General Magic were onto something they weren't, okayed the instigation of a lawsuit, presumably intended to destroy the competition. Sound familiar?
The suit, as it transpires, was unsuccessful. They have better lawyers now, I think.
Sculley was a visionary in the sense that he believed that the mobile platform was the future of computing, pre-dating Jobs's interest in the subject by a considerable margin, and under his stewardship the Apple Newton was born.
It's important to note though, that the Newton wasn't the first PDA (for Personal Digital Assistant, a phrase coined by Sculley), and it certainly didn't enjoy the kind of success sometimes claimed for it.
Meanwhile, at General Magic, Andy Rubin was working with just-in-time compilation – similar in concept to Java – virtual machine development and user interface creation, all of which would come in very handy for the future.
|The T.Mobile Sidekick, running DangerOS|
Fast forward to 1999, and Rubin was co-founder of Danger Inc, a company that developed the PDA known as the Sidekick, a GSM/UMTS device that was able to run applications on its DangerOS which is, interestingly enough, based on Java. A pattern forming perhaps? The Sidekick went on sale in 2002 and was re-branded by telcos and third party manufacturers alike. Danger Inc eventually became a Microsoft subsidiary.
Which brings us forward to 2003 again, to the foundation of Android Inc, and it's here, thanks to the wealth of development experience that preceded the company's creation, that AndroidOS truly began its life.
Android – The Vision Becomes Reality
Android – The Vision Becomes Reality
The Android Inc startup was based on the idea that mobile devices were underachieving and on the belief that the Android crew were just the people to fix that. And thus the development of the Android operating system began in earnest, and in secret.
But without the megabuck backing of Silicon Valley's titans or Redmond's 800lb tech gorilla, progress was understandably steady rather than brisk. However, major developments in hardware capability were happening in parallel, which leveled the playing field somewhat, allowing the modest enterprise to develop its wares without losing too much traction relative to its prospective competitors of the time, Microsoft, Research in Motion and Nokia.
Apple had yet to conceive the idea of their smartphone contender. Remember, we're talking 2003 here and it would be another two years before their spectacularly mediocre collaboration with Motorola, the Rokr, was foisted on the unsuspecting cult followers of Cupertino's famous fruit.
Meanwhile, the Android team steadily refined their product while their bank accounts dwindled, until they reached the point that the company was looking at a financial crisis. Enter Steve Perlman, a co-founder of Danger Inc and prolific inventor, who stepped up with a gift of some thousands of dollars to keep the startup running, so to speak.
So the company continued its mobile development efforts, albeit still in secret and at its previous relaxed pace, until a signal event occurred in late 2005.
For reasons that remain unclear, Google was in the formative stages of expanding their computer-centric business into the realm of the mobile device.
|Googlephone G1 - the similarity to|
the Sidekick in unmistakable
This, it will be remembered, was still a month before Apple announced it was giving Motorola their blessing by making iTunes available in the ill-fated Rokr. Once it hit the market, the collective heart of the Apple Faithful sank. If Apple hadn't been thinking about building their own smartphone before, it was obvious to people all over the Apple forums that they were now.
The battle was about to begin in earnest...