Eric Schmidt dismisses claims that Android ripped off the iPhone

Wed, Nov 9, 2011


In his biography, Steve Jobs minced no words when it came to Android. Jobs vowed to spend every last penny in Apple’s coffers to destroy Android, claiming that it was a copycat product that unabashedly stole Apple’s IP.

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to…to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.”

This past Tuesday, Google Chairman and former Apple board member Eric Schmidt attempted to dismiss those accusations in statements made to South Korean reporters.

Deflecting claims that Android copied Apple, Schmidt said that work on Android began before the iPhone.

“I’ve decided not to comment on what’s been written on a book after his death,” said Schmidt. “Steve is a fantastic human being and someone who I miss very dearly. As a general comment, I think most people would agree that Google is a great innovator and I would also point out that the Android effort started before the iPhone effort.”

Actually, I don’t think anyone would agree that the Android effort, in its present incarnation, started before the iPhone effort. First, there are those famous photos of the very first Android prototypes from December 2007 that look markedly similar to a Blackberry device.

But Thom Holwerda raises an interesting albeit flawed point, noting that Google in November 2007 released its first SDK for Android and that it contained support for touchscreens. Moreover, Google at the time showcased a demo unit with a full touchscreen.

Both devices were clearly far from ready; both UIs are very sparse and limited, and seem to lack many of the things we take for granted today. For instance, the browser on the touch screen device doesn’t have pinch-to-zoom, which, reportedly, wasn’t enabled in Android because Apple asked Google not to.

That said, Holwerda argues that Google had long been working with various Android prototypes and that the OS was intended to run on all sorts of form factors, from “candybar touch screen phones to qwerty-phones, and everything in between”

But these claims that Android was designed to work on all sorts of devices and weren’t influenced by the iPhone fall on deaf ears.

John Gruber ably points out:

So in November 2007 — 11 months after the iPhone was unveiled publicly — Google demoed an Android prototype with a 3.5-ish-inch touchscreen. But watch the demo video. That prototype seemingly has no way to type, and most of the UI is driven not by direct on-screen touch but by a BlackBerry-style menu driven by a hardware D-pad and select button under the screen. Web page zooming is done with buttons on the side of the device. It’s like a BlackBerry with a touchscreen. Every single difference between this 2007 prototype and the

first actual consumer Android phonea year later was in the direction of being more like an iPhone. And in the years since, Android’s evolution has continued almost solely in the direction of iPhone-likeness. Android fans would be better-served going with the “Good artists copy, great artists steal” defense.

Android today is looking more and more like the iPhone and try as Eric Schmidt might, its hard to believe, with logic as serving as your guide, that Google’s Android effort began before Apple’s iPhone effort.

Is it just a coincidence that almost all popular Android devices today look markedly similar to the iPhone, both in the software they use and their industrial design?

Gruber concludes that Android simply underwent a basic transformation, from a BlackBerry rip-off to an iPhone rip-off.

Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly harder to ignore all of the spin doctoring Google is becoming quite adpet at.

Earlier this week, for example, Eric Schmidt (who’s starting to appear like quite a shadester) was quick to point out that Siri posed a competitive threat to Google’s search business. Which is funny bcause Google’s Android guru Andy Rubin was quick to scoff at Apple’s efforts with Siri. This is of course just par for the course for Google who will put billions on the table to acquire patents and then accuse Apple and other companies of manipulating the patent system for their own ends.


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