Samsung could have bought Android before Google

The year is 2005. No smartphones yet (at least not at a level we accept them now), the network carriers control all the content, a lot of mess with versions of the operating systems and what works for Motorola hardly ever runs on Samsung. Mobile application developers run away from smartphones like they run away from hell, and those who really wanted to create something for mobile phones were literally forced to write new code for each model separately, often rewriting the same thing hundreds of time.

The revolution, however, was not that far away. Andy Rubin began working on an operating system that was first designed for digital cameras, but then captured smartphones too. He started off as an engineer at Carl Zeiss, but then worked on operating systems for handheld computers. He had the experience and support of a few engineers. In October 2003, he launched the Android project which ran out of money within a year that made him search for investors.

We all now know that in the end Andy Rubin comes to Google and everyone lives happily ever after. But a very few people know that Rubin first went to Samsung with the offer. The entire Android team of eight engineers flew to Seoul to meet with the largest handset maker.

In a meeting with 20 executives of Samsung, Rubin pitches the Android idea relentlessly, but instead of enthusiasm and questions, the only response he gets is dead silence. Then, Samsung’s team of high-ranked executives voices what seemed obvious then:

“You and what army are going to go and create this? You have six people. Are you high?’ is basically what they said. They laughed me out of the boardroom. This happened two weeks before Google acquired us,” Rubin later recollects.

Indeed, in early 2005 Larry Page would agree to meet with Andy Rubin, and after hearing about his work on Android, he not just helps get the money – he decides that Google will acquire Android.

Google bought Android for $50 million by mid 2005, all eight team members of Android moved to Mountain View . And the rest, as they say, is history…

I guess it was never meant to be. Samsung was looking for a ready product whereas Google was in search of a great idea. Android and Google are a match made in heaven and it’s probably the best thing that Android didn’t end up with Samsung, after all.

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