On September 23rd, 2008 Android was revealed to the world. That’s one year after the iPhone changed smartphones forever and the same year that Apple first introduced its App Store. So a lot of people believe that Android is Google’s answer to the iPhone and in a way it’s true. But in my opinion, the actual purpose of Android was different and is to fend off the possibility that Microsoft could repeat with phones what it had achieved with desktops: a virtual monopoly. And Google has succeeded in doing just that. Android has taken the place in smartphones that Windows once held with desktops: a dominant market share. More than 80 percent of all smartphones in use run Android. With that being said, did you know that Samsung once thought Android was a joke? Yes, it happened in the year 2004 when there were no smartphones, at least not by today’s standards.
The Android team, consisting of eight people back then, having flown out all the way to Seoul, Korea, has gotten the first meeting with one of the largest phone makers of the time, Samsung. Encircled by 20 Samsung executives, Rubin pitches the Android idea relentlessly, but instead of enthusiasm and questions, the only response he gets is dead silence. Then, Samsung’s team of high-ranked executives voices what seemed obvious then: “‘You and what army are going to go and create this? You have six people. Are you high?’ is basically what they said. Andy Rubin further revealed that they laughed him out of the boardroom. But a couple of weeks later Google acquired Android for $50 million and appointed Andy Rubin as its senior vice president of mobile and digital content. Surprisingly shortly thereafter Samsung executives started thinking that they have made a huge mistake and called Rubin and asked if they can meet in person to discuss quote-unquote “very, very interesting proposal” that Andy Rubin himself gave them when he met them in Seoul two weeks ago.
But at that point, it was already too late. With that being said, While many wonder whether Samsung made a huge mistake, it’s pretty clear that the opposite is true. For one, Samsung’s loss turned into Google’s gain, which was the right company in hindsight to promote the OS.
Samsung, being an electronics company, didn’t really have much expertise in the software side of things. Google had the programmers, the services, and the ad business that could power Android past iOS.
Samsung may have lost on Android then, but ironically, Google’s gain resulted in the huge success the Korean company has seen in the smartphone business. It can also be said that Google had the courage to back the idea and its potential, while Samsung failed to see long-term implications of the mobile OS. If you ask Samsung now, I reckon they would agree that the cost of bringing up a nascent OS would have been too much for the company to bear. Just see how their experience with the defunct Bada OS has been, while another Samsung-developed OS Tizen has failed to gain any momentum whatsoever. All said and done, it may be tempting to say that Samsung missed out on the gravy train, but Android would not be the same and for that, we should all be glad.