The secret to the success of Android, Google’s mobile operating system? Its newness, said Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering at Google and the chief architect behind Android.
Mr. Rubin, who appeared on stage with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg during the opening session of the D: Dive Into Mobile event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, attributed the rapid adoption of Android to the company’s origins as a young start-up.
“We can adapt and be more agile,” he said. “It’s a clean slate.”
Mr. Rubin revealed that there are now more than 172 different phones running Android available around the world, including the Nexus S, a Google-branded phone that was unveiled earlier Monday.
“We have the freedom to have no legacy,” he added. In particular, he was referring to rivals like Windows, whom he said are still heavily relying on code written years ago.
Mr. Rubin also confirmed that Android is bringing in money for Google. He said mobile searches done through Google on the iPhone and on Android devices helped generate revenue for the company.
To cap off the conversation, Mr. Rubin pulled out a Motorola prototype running Android 3.0, nicknamed Honeycomb, a new version of the mobile operating system that is designed specifically for tablet devices. He didn’t show off too many features, except for a sleek e-mail interface and new 3-D features on Google Maps.
Mr. Rubin said the operating system would be available sometime next year. When Ms. Swisher pressed Mr. Rubin to estimate how much that device would cost, he quipped “$10,000.”
Mr. Rubin also resisted the characterization that the landscape of Android smartphones is fragmented because its hardware and carrier partners often tailor devices to reflect their brands and applications. Instead, he said, he considers it “differentiation.”
Mr. Rubin acknowledged that Android as it exists is a bit clunky and said Google’s team of engineers was working toward smoothing out the user experience.
“I would characterize Android today as an early adopter for tech enthusiasts,” he said. “In the future, I think you’ll see a little more attention to detail.”
By Jenna Wortham
December 6, 2010