A day like today, ten years ago, the first Android version was launched and the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1 (internationally known as HTC Dream), was announced. It might not have seemed important back then, but Google’s platform has turned into a tech giant in just a decade.
In July 2005, Google acquired a small California-based company called Android Inc., which received funding from Google and produced software for phones. It was there where it all started. Rumors about Google’s interest on making its way into the phone market were circling in the following months until November 2006, when the company officially unveiled Android.
The system’s official announcement was as important as the introduction of the Open Handset Alliance the same day. The Alliance is a group of big hardware, software and telecommunication companies led by Google to develop phone standards. Android, the group’s first product, was dubbed as the “first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices.”
Google was capable of convincing manufacturers and operators of the advantages of a Linux-based open-source system that is also royalty-free, flexible, updatable and customizable, making it ready to compete against Apple’s first iPhone announcement that made a revolution. Beyond Android’s specs, the industry’s support was key for the platform’s success.
These previous announcements prompted the launch of the first Android version (Apple Pie 1.0) and the first Android phone on September 23, 2008. This was really different from the current trend. The T-Mobile G1 was based on the BlackBerry experience, which explains the physical keyboard, buttons and non-touch display.
The first Android version was not as good as the current one. It had some apps, and the Android Market store (Google Play’s predecessor) was quite limited. Although Andy Rubin (Android Inc.’s cofounder and one of the people behind the Android project at Google) recognized a few years later the superiority of the first iPhone and its OS over the HTC Dream and the first Android version, the foundation was laid.
10 years of Android
Google worked quickly on several fronts. It improved the OS with several major updates, increased the number of companies of the Open Handset Alliance, hired thousands of developers to work on the platform, and encouraged the launch of new phones like the Samsung Galaxy S, the Motorola Droid and Google’s very own Nexus One.
In late 2010, Android was the most popular mobile OS on the market. Although the iPhone outshined important OS like BlackBerry OS, Symbian and Windows Mobile, Android totally buried them. It is incredible to see how past leaders like BlackBerry or Nokia now use Android to stay afloat. Other promising Linux-based mobile options like Firefox OS, Ubuntu, Sailfish and webOS have not been successful either. Samsung’s Tizen OS is the only one with market share but only on smartwatches, not on phones.
A decade later, Android has 85% of the global smartphone market share, currently being used in over 2 billion phones. Except for Apple’s iOS, which is exclusively for iPhones, the industry does not have any other relevant mobile platform.
What is in store for Android?
There are no reasons to believe other systems will outshine Android in the next decade. There are no feasible alternatives despite the system’s fragmentation, security and privacy issues, and the imposition of Google’s services and apps, which prompted antitrust fines from the EU. There are options other than Google but not Android. Over 1.5 billion Android smartphones will be sold this year.
Besides, the OS is being used in other market segments. Android tops the tablet market share and is built into TVs, cars, wearables and a long list of other devices, including PCs with Chrome OS that support it.
Google is working on a project caller Fuchsia OS, which is rumored to be a unified system for all of its devices. Fuchsia OS is not Linux-based like Android and Chrome OS, and it aims to be a “modular, capability-based operating system.” It uses a microkernel dubbed “Zircon” (Magenta), which provides central controllers and the implementation of C-language libraries (LIBC) in which the majority will be programmed.
We really do not know if the OS will replace, unify or complement Google’s platforms, but it might be the future of an Android that turns 10 years old alongside the first Android phone.