Meet the original Android... Before Google ripped off the iPhone; The Inside Story

It’s been known for some time that Google’s Android platform was largely inspired by (and some might say modeled after or copied from) Apple’s iPhone. Indeed, the original Android devices didn’t resemble today’s Android smartphones at all. In fact, Android was originally designed without any sort of touchscreen in mind, and the original “Google phone” concept resembled a Blackberry more than an iPhone

A fascinating except published in The Atlantic (via Daring Fireball) from Fred Vogelstein’s new book, Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, casts some even more interesting light on just how badly Google crapped their pants when they first saw the iPhone.


The article points out what can only be a truly horrified response coming from Google Android engineer Chris DeSalvo (emphasis added):

“As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted [an iPhone] immediately. But as a Google engineer I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over’” Chris DeSalvo said. “What we had suddenly looked so… nineties. It’s just one of those things that are obvious when you see it.”

And another fascinating tidbit from that Atlantic article, with another frightened iPhone response from none other than Android team director Andy Rubin (once again, emphasis added):

On the day Jobs announced the iPhone, the director of the Android team, Andy Rubin, was six hundred miles away in Las Vegas, on his way to a meeting with one of the myriad handset makers and carriers that descend on the city for the Consumer Electronics Show. He reacted exactly as DeSalvo predicted. 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.

Steve Jobs famously claimed that Android was a stolen product in comments published in his official biography by Walter Isaacson – and from the nuggets revealed in the new book, it seems he wasn’t far off at all.

“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. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

Apple still has yet to sue Google directly regarding Android – but it certainly clear that Apple shook up the entire mobile industry in a bigger way than anyone could have imagined. Even Google immediately saw how significant the iPhone was. They scrapped their entire Android project and started from scratch!