What happened was, in the late stages of my career at Sun Microsystems, as we were sliding into Oracle’s loathsome embrace, I had discovered Android. The programming language was Java, and not a dorky “ME” subset. My employer was saying nice things about it, and I’d long craved something I could both carry in my pocket and program. I discovered it was pretty easy to program and eventually published the Android Diary series in this space, which got pretty lively readership.
Thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised when, shortly after leaving Sun, I got outreach from Google’s Developer Relations org. I was receptive and almost immediately I found myself in Mountain View for the famous Google Interview Day. My first session was with Vic Gundotra, who was a major Google V.I.P. at the time. He opened by saying “I’ve been reading your blog and I think I know a lot about you. What would you like to know about us?”
That was easy. I asked “Why is Google doing Android? Are you serious or is it just a hobby?” (Because at Sun we’d had a lot of hobbies — sideline technologies that we couldn’t seem to give up — and that sucked and I didn’t want to work on one.)
Vic said something like (It’s ten years later and I’m paraphrasing) “The iPhone is really good. The way things are going, Apple’s going to have a monopoly on Internet-capable mobile devices. That means they’ll be the gatekeepers for everything, including advertising, saying who can and can’t, setting prices, taking a cut. That’s an existential threat to Google. Android doesn’t have to win, to win. It just has to get enough market so there’s a diverse and competitive mobile-advertising market.”
I don’t know about you, but I found that totally convincing. And I suppose a lot of industry insiders are thinking “Well of course everyone knew that!” I didn’t. I made it through the interviews and they offered me the job and I had four good years at Google.
I wonder if Vic was right about what would’ve happened if they hadn’t done Android?