Google's reaction to Apple's iPhone unveiling: 'We're going to have to start over' on Android

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2014
The iPhone's 2007 introduction was not only a watershed moment for Apple, but also a turning point for Google's Android team, according to an excerpt from a new book on the subject.

Apple v Samsung
A slide from the Apple v Samsung trial


"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,'" former Apple engineering lead and early Android team member Chris DeSalvo is quoted as saying about Apple's handset. DeSalvo was interviewed by author Fred Vogelstein for his new book about the origins of the Android versus iPhone war, an excerpt from which was published in The Atlantic.

Another Apple alum, Android project co-founder Andy Rubin, is also said to have been taken aback by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs's presentation. "Holy crap, I guess we're not going to ship that phone," he reportedly told a colleague, taking about Google's BlackBerry-like "Sooner" device, which was to be the first flagship Android phone.

The Android team's response was to refocus development on a new touch-enabled device --?which would later become HTC's T-Mobile G1 --?and delay their planned public launch by a year. Several features from Sooner were held over, such as the phone's physical keyboard, but the software was completely reworked and redesigned for a touch interface. "Holy crap, I guess we're not going to ship that phone." -- Andy Rubin

Vogelstein's narrative --?that the Android team deliberately changed Android's direction to mimic that of Apple's iPhone --?dovetails with Jobs's stance that Android is a "stolen product."

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Though Apple has not sued Google directly, the companies have waged a proxy war over Android both in court and in the conference rooms of regulators around the world. The war's most famous battle, Apple's landmark lawsuit against Samsung, recently concluded with Apple winning judgements totaling nearly $1 billion as a result of Samsung's infringement.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 226

    By start over I think they mean copy large portions of the better idea, then start to iterate furiously to avoid litigation.

  • Reply 2 of 226

    Third-rate copyists.

  • Reply 3 of 226
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,291member
    The iPhone's 2007 introduction was not only a watershed moment for Apple, but also a turning point for Google's Android team, according to an excerpt from a new book on the subject.

    "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,'" former Apple engineering lead and early Android team member Chris DeSalvo is quoted as saying about Apple's handset...

    Another Apple alum, Android project co-founder Andy Rubin, is also said to have been taken aback by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs's presentation. "Holy crap, I guess we're not going to ship that phone," he reportedly told a colleague, taking about Google's BlackBerry-like "Sooner" device, which was to be the first flagship Android phone.

    The Android team's response was to refocus development on a new touch-enabled device --?which would later become HTC's T-Mobile G1 --?and delay their planned public launch by a year.

    In hindsight it was the only decision that made sense. Kudos to the Android team for recognizing it early on rather than trudging forward with what would have been a useless effort. Microsoft, Nokia, and Blackberry took way too long to come to the same realization that touch events were the way forward. Especially Blackberry who at the time had the leading market position on high-end handsets. Android of course may have had a little headstart over the other laggards since they had already started work on a touchscreen smartphone alongside their "Sooner" trackball phone according to reports and press videos from the time.

    By the way, wasn't Mr. Jobs less concerned that Google shifted focus to a touch device but instead incensed over their eventual inclusion of multi-touch which happened well after the G1 was intro'd?
  • Reply 4 of 226
    Pretty much confirms everything Jobs claimed - that Android was just a knockoff of iOS and the iPhone. What is interesting though, is that it seems to disprove the allegation that Eric Schmidt, who was on Apple's board at the time, was passing along iPhone information to Google ... at least prior to the public unveiling. Not sure how much the board knew about the iPhone before the unveiling, but it appears the Google engineers didn't know about it beforehand.
  • Reply 5 of 226
    That is logical. Android developers knew the market changed from the product they where making to the apple iPhone. You have to adapt or fail. Google choice was simple adapt.but please do tail me what was stolen from the iPhone?
  • Reply 6 of 226
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,722member
    Screen-Shot-2011-10-27-at-16.26.12-1.jpg
  • Reply 7 of 226
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,722member

  • Reply 8 of 226
    gatorguy wrote: »
    In hindsight it was the only decision that made sense. Kudos to the Android team for recognizing it early on rather than trudging forward with what would have been a useless effort. Microsoft, Nokia, and Blackberry took way too long to come to the same realization that touch events were the way forward. Especially Blackberry who at the time had the leading market position on high-end handsets. Android of course may have had a little headstart over the other laggards since they had already started work on a touchscreen smartphone alongside their "Sooner" trackball phone according to reports and press videos from the time.

    I was going to say the same thing, but you beat me to it. Well said. Blackberry (RIM), Microsoft, and Nokia just buried their heads in the sand and thought they could keep their existing smartphone OS's while the iPhone sucked all the air out of the room. Only Google and Palm reacted quickly enough -- and Palm stumbled on execution.
  • Reply 9 of 226
    gatorguy wrote: »
    In hindsight it was the only decision that made sense. Kudos to the Android team for recognizing it early on rather than trudging forward with what would have been a useless effort. Microsoft, Nokia, and Blackberry took way too long to come to the same realization that touch events were the way forward. Especially Blackberry who at the time had the leading market position on high-end handsets. Android of course may have had a little headstart over the other laggards since they had already started work on a touchscreen smartphone alongside their "Sooner" trackball phone according to reports and press videos from the time.

    By the way, wasn't Mr. Jobs less concerned that Google shifted focus to a touch device but instead incensed over their eventual inclusion of multi-touch which happened well after the G1 was intro'd?

    The New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition defines genius as "exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability" and "a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect." To me, that's just being talented but I define genius as being something else entirely. My definition is "being able to express something unique and have it immediately be seen as the only viable model going forward." That is what we saw in 2007 with the iPhone.

    That is logical. Android developers knew the market changed from the product they where making to the apple iPhone. You have to adapt or fail. Google choice was simple adapt.but please do tail me what was stolen from the iPhone?

    Why is it now logical? I have read for years and year on many sites that Google had been working on touch-based versions of the released Android long before Apple announce the iPhone.
  • Reply 10 of 226
    neo42neo42 Posts: 287member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Apple v. Samsung View Post



    That is logical. Android developers knew the market changed from the product they where making to the apple iPhone. You have to adapt or fail. Google choice was simple adapt.but please do tail me what was stolen from the iPhone?

     

    Going to just step in here for the 99.9% here. Google stole all of Apple's IP.  Duh.

     

    But seriously, I agree with you. Obviously Google responded to the iPhone through mimic of design, generally speaking, as they well should have.  The iPhone and iOS ushered in a new standard of smart phone design and following that lead was necessary.  Regardless of Jobs' grandiose delusion of burying Google over "stealing", competition is good, healthy and necessary.  Doubtful that iOS would have evolved to what it is today without said competition. 

  • Reply 11 of 226
    I was going to say the same thing, but you beat me to it. Well said. Blackberry (RIM), Microsoft, and Nokia just buried their heads in the sand and thought they could keep their existing smartphone OS's while the iPhone sucked all the air out of the room. Only Google and Palm reacted quickly enough -- and Palm stumbled on execution.

    Palm's management was foolish. They thought releasing an unfinished product so long as they did it the month before Apple released the next iPhone was better than releasing a solid product after the iPhone was mid-way through its cycle.
  • Reply 12 of 226

    Item One Of 'Start Over' Plan:

     

    Crank Up The Xerox Machines.

  • Reply 13 of 226
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member

    "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

  • Reply 14 of 226
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    Third-rate copyists.


    Couldn't disagree more... They are absolutely first rate copyists!

  • Reply 15 of 226
    Third-rate copyists.

    True. But the real story here is that by disrupting the smartphone market, the iPhone opened the door for someone to become THE iPhone OS clone that the other handset manufacturers could rally around. Only Google and Palm reacted quickly enough, but Palm f'd up on execution because rather than license their new webOS, they wanted to bolster their own hardware business with it, and it was their hardware that sank them.

    An iPhone OS alternative was inevitable because Apple would never license iOS to other hardware makers. Microsoft didn't react fast enough, nor did RIM and Nokia. Their market positions eroded very quickly. This is ultimately Ballmer's biggest career failure: Apple was never their competitor for Windows Mobile licensing: it was always Android.
  • Reply 16 of 226
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,291member
    applezilla wrote: »
    Item One Of 'Start Over' Plan:

    Crank Up The Xerox Machines.

    . . . Xerox . . . ;)
  • Reply 17 of 226
    solipsismx wrote: »
    Why is now logical? I have read for years and year on many sites that Google had been working on touch-based versions of the released Android long before Apple announce the iPhone.

    I stopped keeping track of Fandroid talking points. It's gonna shift constantly.
  • Reply 18 of 226
    Before iPhone's public unveiling, Google did not have access to specifics about it, despite Schmidt being an Apple trustee at the time.

    But Schmidt knew something huge was underway:
    - Apple was pouring huge resources in a phone project
    - Jobs was convinced this project would be a revolution for the industry and I am pretty sure it showed when he was talking to people he was trusting. That and how Blackberry was utter crap for him.
    - According to Jobs it was bigger than the first Mac.

    Schmidt is not stupid. He knew !damn well Apple was on the verge of delivering a new kind of phone far above what BB had to offer at the moment, hence far superior to Google own prototypes. Plus, Jobs despised physical keyboard and Apple had many patent about multi-touch technology.

    Also, Apple was already in talk to use GoogleMaps: how many handsets were able to display GoogleMaps at 640x480px and let users interact with it without a keyboad in 2006 ?

    Google had huge hints at what the iPhone was capable of and what it would not be in no small part thanks to Schmidt so, it is really naive to think they did not use this knowledge to move Android development in new directions (if just to cover a worst case scenario%u2026) well before Apple unveiled the iPhone%u2026 And it would not have been possible if Schmidt had not been working with Jobs on a daily basis at this time%u2026

    Google may not have stolen the iPhone "features" by se but they had enough inside info to be much more prepared than their competitors and pour much more resources to back their project and ensure it would, one day, lead the competition by a wide margin%u2026
  • Reply 19 of 226
    crowleycrowley Posts: 6,064member
    Not to excuse any copying or parent infringement, but I wonder what Steve Jobs [I]expected[/I] to happen after the iPhone launched. That he got so angry about Android would seem to suggest that he thought the rest of the mobile industry would... just carry on as it always had? Let Apple run away with every prize?

    Maybe it's the benefit of hindsight, but given how good the iPhone was (to paraphrase SJs own words: "five years ahead of the competition"), it seems pretty much inevitable that the iPhone would trigger some degree of following/inspiring/copying.

    Again, not excusing it, just wondering if SJ was as genuinely surprised and angered by it as much as his "thermo-nuclear war" comments would suggest.
  • Reply 20 of 226
    I recall reading that internally, RIM's first response to the iPhone unveiling was "that's impossible". Based upon their understanding of available tech, RIM believed that the device Jobs demonstrated and claims Jobs made were not technically feasible. This is likely why they were slow in responding. First, RIM had to come to grips with reality.
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