Like it or not, Android is the most popular smartphone platform in the U.S. right now.What started as a lackluster platform on T-Mobile’s G1 phone back in 2008, now runs on everything from phones to tablets to netbooks.
That’s 2.8 million new Android users per week.
Android’s massive success is all thanks to Andy Rubin, the man who created the OS, and now serves as Google’s mobile boss.
Rubin began his career as a developer at Apple, and moved around the Valley a lot working with mobile operating systems. Most notably he was CEO of Danger, the company behind the T-Mobile Sidekick.
After Danger, Rubin moved on to start his next company, Android.
Android’s advances in mobile operating systems caught Google’s attention, and it eventually acquired Android. The rest is history.
While the G1 was a dud, the phone that brought Android into the mainstream was Motorola’s original DROID phone, which launched in 2009. It ran Android 2.0, a massive upgrade to the first version a year earlier.
Rubin’s team worked closely with Motorola to make sure the DROID would be a real hit. (Both parties needed a big win at the time.)
There was also a huge marketing campaign with the DROID, which pointed out the iPhone’s flaws at the time. (No multitasking, no keyboard, etc.)
From there, Android just exploded. Manufacturers like HTC and Samsung have based their entire mobile strategy on Android. And it’s working. In 2010, Samsung’s mobile division grew 340 per cent; HTC grew 229 per cent.
Moving forward, Rubin’s strategy is to turn Android into a unified platform and battle the fragmentation problems that has caused problems for users who want to run newer apps on their phones.
At Google I/O last week, Rubin said Android’s next version, Ice Cream Sandwich, will run on both phones and tablets. Google is also working with manufacturers and carriers to make sure Android updates get to users faster. That means manufacturers will be required to make their phones compatible with new versions of Android for at least 18 months.
After bragging about “openness” for so long, it makes sense for Rubin and his team to start exercising more control over the platform. Fragmentation is a big problem, and frustrating to users and developers who want all of Android’s latest features and apps to work on any device.
This year, the team is focusing on both hardware and software. It’s a given that Google will release a third Nexus phone this winter, along with the new Ice Cream Sandwich. But there are also reports that they’re working on a tablet.
It’s a smart strategy, and moving forward could help accelerate Android’s dominance.
The mobile platform wars are far from over. In the end, developers, manufacturers, and carriers will flock towards the system with the most users. And so far, Rubin is leading the charge.
And that makes him a visionary.