A Nickname And A Hobby That Inspired An Android To Andy Rubin

Andy Rubin

"Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn't be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."

- Andy Rubin

Known to be an American computer programmer, engineer, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist. Andy Rubin, over the course of his career, has become known as a technical genius, skillful businessman, and a dynamic leader.

He loves to create things, whether it's writing code or building robots. With his experiences, he created Android, the operating system with early intention to rival Symbian, BlackBerry OS and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

But when Google eventually came into its assistance, Android came on par with Apple's iOS. The moment made Steve Jobs so angry that he disliked Android and Rubin, starting the Google-Apple smartphone war.


Early Life And Career

Andrew E. Rubin was born in 1963 and grew up in Chappaqua, New York. His father's company that created photographs of the latest gadgets fascinated Rubin when he was young. Rubin went to Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York (1977–1981), then continued his studies in Utica College, New York, graduating in 1986. Rubin received his Bachelor title in Computer Science.

Rubin briefly ran a computer bulletin board system.

Rubin took his first job at Carl Zeiss AG as a robotic engineer from 1986 to 1988. After leaving, he briefly took a job at Société Genevoise d'instruments de physique (SIP) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Rubin then continued his career at Apple, Inc.. His chance of working with Apple did come as a coincidence: Rubin that was vacationing in Cayman Island happened to meet and helped Bill Caswell who was in a bad state. Caswell returned the favor by offering Rubin a job at Apple.

At that time, Apple at the time was in good condition with the popularity of Macintosh computers. During his time at Apple, Rubin had periods of fun: he did some jokes such as reprogramming Apple's phone system so he could pretend to be the company's CEO. Such jokes would eventually became Steve Jobs', the man who was known to make jokes over the phone. At that time, Apple was in a period without Jobs.

From manufacturing, Rubin moved to the research at Apple. In 1990, Apple did a spin off to form a company called General Magic and Rubin participated in it. General Magic focuses on the development of handheld devices and communications. The engineers, including Rubin, developed a software called Magic Cap. The product didn't went well. General Magic was finally destroyed in 1995.

After leaving the project, Rubin with some developers at General Magic and some veterans of Apple, set up Artemis Research. The company developed WebTV, an attempt to combine the internet with television. When Microsoft bought Artemis in 1997, Rubin joined Microsoft. At the company, Rubin's mischief continued when he built a camera-equipped robot to work on his colleagues. Because the robot was connected to the internet, an incident burglarized a party outside Microsoft. In 1999, Rubin left WebTV.

After leaving WebTV and no longer Microsoft's employee, Rubin worked on his own. He rented a small store in Palo Alto, California, and called the store as a laboratory. The place was filled with a variety of toy robots Rubin has collected. The environment sparked Rubin an idea for a new project.

Along with several colleagues, Rubin later co-founded Danger Inc. with Matt Hershenson and Joe Britt in 1999. The company in which Rubin was its CEO, was specializing in hardware design, software, and services for mobile computing devices. The company achieved success through a device called the Danger Sidekick. Originally, the device is named Danger Hiptop, but the market was known as T-Mobile Sidekick.

"We want to make a device, about the size of chocolate bars, with prices under $10 and can be used to scan an object and get information about it from the internet. Then, add the radio and transmitter, be a Sidekick," said Rubin about Sidekick.

Danger was a technical powerhouse with a product ahead of its time, but it remained a business underdog until the end of its life. Danger struggled to get other companies to do what it wanted.

Rubin dedicated his time in bringing his best for Danger until Microsoft's deal to acquire it in February 2008.

After his company was acquired by Microsoft, his experience played a crucial part on his mind. This propelled his idea to invent Android. Rubin adopted the name "Android" for very good reasons: his hobby, and the way his co-workers at Apple called him "Android" because of his love of robots. There were also speculations over "Android" because it sounds like "Andy." Android.com was also Rubin's personal website until 2008.


Android And Joining Google

In October 2003, Andy Rubin founded Android, Inc. with Rich Miner (co-founder of Wildfire Communications, Inc.), Nick Sears (former VP at T-Mobile), and Chris White (Design and Interface Development at WebTV.

Incubating Android, Rubin became entrepreneurs-in-residence with venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures in 2004. "Android started from a simple idea, provide a powerful mobile platform and open so that it can encourage more rapid innovation and customer benefit," said Rubin.

The early intentions for Android was to create and develop an advanced operating system for digital cameras. But since the market wasn't huge, the company diverted its efforts to produce an operating system for smartphones to compete with Symbian, BlackBerry OS and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Rubin who was its CEO, said that people need a "smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner's location and preferences".

Android operated quietly and secretly, revealing itself as a company working on software for mobile phones. Rubin's method to make his company work secretly made him deplete his resources quickly. Rubin had already missed payments on Android's office space, and the landlord was threatening to evict him. He made an urgent call to his friend, Steve Perlman, explaining that his startup was in trouble. Rubin didn't like asking for money, but the situation was dire. Perlman who is a close friend to him, agreed to wire some funds as soon as possible.

Perlman went to the bank and withdrew $10,000 in $100 bills and gave them to Rubin. The next day, he wired over money, disclosing the amount, to provide the seed funding for Android.

"I did it because I believed in the thing, and I wanted to help Andy," said Perlman that refused any stake of Android.

With the new cash, Rubin was able to get Android back on track. He secured more funding and moved the team into a larger office in Palo Alto, California.

Joining Google

Andy Rubin

In July 2005, Google acquired Android. Google's co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first knew about Rubin when they attended his 2002 lecture at Stanford on the development of Sidekick. After Page sees Rubin and observed Sidekick for a closer look. In Page's view, the device was using Google's search engine. "Cool," said Page.

Page was the one who saw the potential of Rubin and Android. Brin and Schmidt on the other hand, initially kept their distance from the operating system, saying that they didn't understand mobile. What made Page fell in love with Rubin's vision is the prospect an open-mobile operating system, and the prospect of a global movement led by Google.

Page was utterly convinced that Android was a perfect match for Google

This is a starting point for Page to an idea soon to be realized, a Google phone. Rubin wasn't sure at first. He found to be "crazy" because of the time, Google had a loose corporate structure.

Google acquired Android for at least $50 million. The company's key people including Rubin, stayed with Android after the acquisition. There wasn't much to say about what Google would do to Android at that time, and people are kept presuming what Google had in mind after acquiring it.

But since Android was already known to be a software maker for mobile devices, some assumed that Google was planning to enter the mobile market.

At Google, Rubin who was positioned as Senior Vice President of Android, led a team of eight people to develop a mobile device platform based on the Linux kernel. Google promised to market Android as a platform for mobile devices, providing both flexibility and upgradable system. The company partnered with a series of components and software developers, as well as informing mobile carriers about its business.

Other big partnerships included the Android Update Alliance, which was supposed to coordinate releases between carriers. Rubin also sponsored Google's Motorola acquisition.


Google-Apple War

When Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, Google was already working on Android, its own smartphone operating system. When Apple announced the mobile device, Rubin realized that he would have to throw out what he was thinking of launching.

Rubin first heard about the news when he was at a cab in Las Vegas, watching a webcast of the presentation. He made the driver to stop and pull over so he could see the whole thing. "Holy crap, I guess we're not going to launch that phone," said Rubin.

Apple wasn't quiet when it was about to announce its new smartphone. Everyone on Android knew about Apple's plan, but nobody in the team ever knew that it would be that good.

Google's Android was set to launch by the end of that year, but since it looked a lot relative to the iPhone, the date was then delayed. The project was also scrapped. Beside being similar to the iPhone's interface, the advances of the product was able to make Android a product of yesteryear. An Android engineer even went as far as to say their work on Android looked awful when compared to the iPhone: "What we had looked so … nineties."

The Android team began to work on the software that eventually went to the HTC G1, Google's first Android-based smartphone. The software wasn't as good as iPhone's iOS, but it was similar enough to make Apple's Steve Jobs furious with Google.

"Everything is a f--king rip-off of what we're doing," Jobs said of Android.

Jobs trusted Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as Eric Schmidt who was Google's CEO at the time and was also on Apple's board. The three have told Jobs about Android, and kept telling him that it would be a different product from iOS. For some reasons, Jobs believed then until he actually saw the phone and software in person.

Once he saw the similarities between Android and Apple, Jobs insisted Google to make changes. A meeting was then arranged for Jobs and iPhone's designer Scott Forstall, with Google's Larry Page, Rubin and Alan Eustace who was Google's Senior Vice President of Engineering.

The meeting didn't went well.

"It got incredibly personal," said one Apple executive who was briefed by Jobs on the meeting. "Jobs said that Rubin was steamed, telling him his position was anti-innovation. And this is where Steve was demeaning to Andy, saying Andy was trying to be like him, look like him, have the same haircut, the same glasses, the same style."

However, Apple got what it wanted from the meeting. Android did eliminated some of its similar features, one of which was the multitouch available in the iPhone, was taken out. Rubin was furious. After the meeting with Jobs, Rubin had a sign on his office white board that said "STEVE JOBS STOLE MY LUNCH MONEY."

He thought there was plenty of evidence that Apple didn't actually invent the things it said it invented. Rubin was so angry that he considered quitting Google. Google added those features eventually, and Rubin didn't quit Google like planned. Rubin's team of eight people has grown to over 250 in 5 years.

Google's decision to make Android similar to iOS by borrowing some of its features, and vice versa for Apple, has made the two companies deal with multiple lawsuits.

But in the long run, Android was having an extra power with Google on its back. Rubin and Android eventually did the bests out of Apple and became comparable to iOS to the every bits. And when considering flexibility and adoptions, Android comes second to no one.


Leaving Google

On 13 March 2013, Larry Page announced in a blog post that Andy Rubin had moved from the Android team to take on new projects at Google. His position was then replaced by Sundar Pichai.

In December 2013, Rubin was positioned to oversee the robotics division of Google. Here, Google allowed Rubin to built robots, and at the same time fulfill his hobby. "I have a history of making my hobbies into a career," said Rubin. "This is the world's greatest job. Being an engineer and a tinkerer, you start thinking about what you would want to build for yourself."

On 30 October 2014, Rubin eventually left Google after nine years at the company to start an incubator for hardware startups. In 2014, he founded Playground Global in which raised $48 million in April 2015. On the same day, Rubin partnered with Redpoint Ventures which was one of Playground's investors.

"I am an entrepreneur at heart," Rubin once wrote.

Android's popularity has made the team grew to a certain size that required extra interactions. The product needs intensive collaboration and partnership both from inside and outside of Google, and Rubin became frustrated and incapable of managing the business. Android had outgrown Rubin, and Rubin had grown tired of Android.

As an inventor, Andy Rubin has seventeen U.S. Patents in which either assigned under Google's or Danger's name.

In November 2015, Rubin created his first company after Android. Calling it Essential Products, Rubin co-founded it with Matt Hershenson using funds from Playground Global. In January 2017, Rubin as the CEO of the company, reported that they were planning to reveal a new smartphone. It was in May 30th that the company revealed Essential Phone and Essential Home.


Personal Life

Andy Rubin likes coffee, and his passion for it was reflected in many occasions.

Once, Rubin was planning secretly to make sure there is one coffee shop for each and every one of Los Altos' residents. On his Facebook's post, he said that he was looking to hire few world-class Latte artists to practice their new-formula cafe in Los Altos, California.

The arrangement was somehow similar to what Google's Sergey Brin when he bank-rolled several square blocks through Passerelle Investment Co. and subsidizing the rents for some of the businesses in them. Among the groups tenants, is Bumble, a coffee shop.

One day, Rubin was sitting in a coffee shop with his wife in November 2009 when he heard a sound of his latest creation coming behind him. The sound was a robotic voice repeated at a regular intervals, similar to an electronic voice box. It was a nearby ringtone preloaded in Motorola's Droid. At that time, he was like a proud father because the Droid had gone on sale only that morning. This was about a year after the first ever Android phone was released to the market.

Rubin likes to create things, whether it’s writing code or building robots. Rubin is obsessed with hardware, especially the kind that moves or takes pictures.

At Google's campus, Rubin spent his spare time programming a gigantic robotic arm, large enough to lift cars, to make him a cup of coffee each time he sent it a text message. He was also involved in flying a massive $5,000 remote-controlled helicopter on Google’s lawn and made it flip upside-down.

He also known to equip his house and car with gadgets.

Rubin's wife runs a bakery in Los Altos. The bakery was the place where venture capital firm Redpoint met Rubin over a cup of coffee. At that time, Rubin agreed to join Redpoint. This was on the same day that Rubin's startup incubator Playground, disclosed that it had raised $48 million in funding from a number of investors, including Redpoint itself.