Have you heard of Andy Rubin? That’s OK, most people haven’t – Even though today he’s Apple’s greatest threat since Bill Gates in the 1980s.
Andy’s little brain-child, Android, has gone from an idea 7 years ago to now accounting for 72% of the 181 million smart phone global smartphones sold in the last quarter, compared to just 14% for Apple. Android phones are now outselling Apple 5 to 1, with 1.3 million new Android activations EVERY DAY.
Who is Andy Rubin? He was an engineer at Apple in the early 1990s with Apple’s ‘General Magic’ team, designing the first mobile software platform. He left to create his own operating system and PDA called ‘Sidekick’ – before the ipod was launched. It failed, and by 2003 Andy was back at the drawing board.
Fast forward to 2005, and a meeting between Andy and Google’s Larry Page. Did Larry want to endorse Andy’s new mobile operating system Android? (Named after a robot sidekick). Larry did one better, buying over the entire team, including Andy for somewhere around $50 million, as a way to compete in the new smartphone market. At that point, there was still not a single smartphone using Android. It was simply $50m to buy the invention and the inventor.
Andy got to work at Google. This week, 7 years on, Google’s Eric Schmidt declared victory on the smartphone war with Android, saying to Bloomberg: “This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago – Microsoft versus Apple. We’re winning that pretty clearly now.”
Today, phones using Android are growing at 92% per year compared to the market at 46%. The growth in China Android is even greater (where Android is on 90% of the smartphones sold) at 2.6x that – and China will have 700 million smartphones by the end of 2017: Double the US market (That’s compared to 350m China smartphones today and only 90m one year ago).
In the 1980s, Apple fell from total dominance of the PC market to just 4% of the market as Microsoft Windows took over from the Mac operating system. The same is happening now with Google against Apple on a whole number of fronts:
The Android store, Google Play, has grown 300% this year compared to the Apple App store’s 13% growth. Google Play downloads will overtake Apple App store in the first half of 2016. This week Google’s map app went straight to the top of Apple’s most downloaded apps, undermining Apple’s reputation of delivering better software. Google is also innovating much faster than Apple on everything from mobile payments to voice recognition.
What am I personally doing in this sea change? Much as I love Apple, we are redirecting more of our efforts on Android apps and Android phones and tablets than on Apple. We’ve translated all our main sites and products to Chinese. And I’ll also be expecting to write about and interview many more Android app millionaires in 2016.
What is Andy’s view on all of this? He prides the openness on Android but, being more of a techie he prefers to let his coding speak for itself.
In 2010 Steve Jobs criticized Android in an open letter, writing ‘”Google loves to characterize Android as open and iPhone as closed. We see this as disingenuous and clouding the difference.’
Andy replied by setting up a Twitter account with his first post being his definition of open – The commands to download all Android’s source code:
@Arubin: the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://
Win for the robot.