Google didn't expect such a good product from Apple

A new article from The Atlantic takes a look at the early days of the largest mobile software rivalry today: Android vs. iOS.

The article profiles Google's progress with Android up to the point where the iPhone was initally announced in 2007, and shortly after when the search giant realized it had to make some serious changes to the Android operating system before it was finally unveiled. 

Google started working on Android in 2005, keeping the project as secret as possible. The new OS was formed in Google’s Building 44 by four dozen engineers. 

After putting in 60-80 hour work weeks for about two years, Google's Android Chief Andy Rubin (as well as the rest of the Android team) got a huge surprise. On January 9, 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone.

It wasn't a secret that Apple was releasing a phone. Google knew that, but it really didn't expect the iPhone to be as good as it was at the time. In fact, Google was more threatened by Microsoft's entrance into the mobile realm, since Microsoft was the computer software leader for so long. 

Google also worried that Microsoft would release a phone exclusively with its own search engine instead of Google search, which could really hurt Google's business. At the time, a lot of Google's income depended on search ads, which appeared next to its search results. 

It's hard to believe that Microsoft would be such a feared mobile contender today, since it currently has about 3.6 percent global market share and Android just passed the 80 percent mark. But back before the iPhone and Android and Windows Phone came along, Google thought Microsoft could kill off its search engine the way it did Netscape with Internet Explorer in the 1990s. It figured that people would rush to whatever mobile browser Microsoft offered and possibly leave Google in the dust. 

However, it was Apple that surprised Google. The iPhone had a much prettier design than Google's current Android phone it was working on, with a large 3.5-inch touchscreen and no physical keyboard. The digital keyboard would only appear when needed and leave when it wasn't. Buttons for music, such as play and stop, only appeared when the music app was up.

Google's Android phone at the time (codenamed "Sooner"), however, had a physical keyboard and a tiny screen with no touchscreen capabilities. It knew it had to make some changes to its design, and it had to make its phone better than the iPhone.

But one area where Google felt confident despite the iPhone's appearance was with Sooner's Android software. It felt Android had a superior product with a full Internet browser, Google's Web apps (including search, Maps, and YouTube), it could run more than one application at a time, and the OS could run on any smartphone or other portable device. 

The iPhone, on the other hand, couldn't run more than one application at a time, needed to connect to iTunes regularly, and wasn't preparing an app store at the time. 

“I never got the feeling that we should scrap what we were doing—that the iPhone meant game over. But a bar had been set, and whatever we decided to launch, we wanted to make sure that it cleared the bar," said Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Rubin and the rest of the Android team started working on an Android phone codenamed "Dream," which would have all of its software features plus a cleaner design. It still had a physical keyboard, but it slid out for extra convenience. It also had the touchscreen capabilities like the iPhone. 

And so, the first Android smartphone -- called the T-Mobile G1 from HTC -- was released nearly two years after the iPhone. 

Now, Android pummels the competition with the greatest market share than any other OS. Apple's iOS comes in second place but far behind with 12.9 percent global market share.

You can get the full story from The Atlantic here

Source: The Atlantic

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