Position: Director of mobile platforms, Google
Location: Los Altos Hills, Calif.
The gPhone is dead! Long live the gPhone! It turned out that the much-rumored “device” was actually a mobile operating system called Android, created by Andy Rubin’s eponymous company, which was quietly purchased by Google in 2005. With Android finally out in the open, it’s clear that Rubin is playing a major role in shaping Google’s efforts to establish a beachhead in mobile devices.
Rubin’s big idea is an open-source mobile operating system that will give developers full access to the guts of a device. It’s more open than closed-source competitors like Nokia’s S60 and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile because it lets developers tinker with virtually any aspect of the software rather than being limited to functionality exposed by restrictive programming interfaces.
Google will give Android to handset makers for free, which could prove critical to its success. “There’s a large opportunity in the North American market for what Google is trying to do,” said Gartner analyst Hugues De La Vergne. “There’s no dominant low-cost consumer [mobile] OS in this region.” But Rubin’s brainchild could provide a huge payoff for Google: It would be in on the ground floor of the device, giving the company a springboard from which to influence all aspects of the mobile environment. “They can have much more say in the mobile user experience,” said analyst Bonny Joy of Strategy Analytics.
As Rubin leads Google’s charge into mobile territory, all signs point to a battle that will spur exciting efforts from the major mobile players for supremacy on the handset. Android partners initially included many of the major handset makers, including HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, but only the two smaller U.S. carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile.
However, AT&T mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega recently said that he had met with Google and that the provider was warming up to the OS because he had been reassured that AT&T’s applications and features will be able to run on the devices. Even if Verizon Wireless doesn’t embrace Android, Rubin’s software could very well redefine the smart phone and the way we access the Web on the go.
Did You Know: Rubin’s technology career began in robotics. He remains a dedicated hobbyist, with a fleet of autonomous model helicopters in his collection.