Android less about money, more about iPhone disruption

Updated: Aug 17, 2010 9:18 PM UTC

James Gosling, who is often called the Father of Java, has been chiming in on the recent litigation between Oracle and Google.

There are some alternative narratives that are noteworthy in Gosling's recent blog posts. Namely that Google's Android project was started as more of a defense against Apple (aapl) rather than a new revenue opportunity for Google (goog). He recalled meetings with Google when the two companies were discussing licensing Java for Android:

Money was, of course, also an issue between Sun and Google. We wanted some compensation for the large amount we would be spending on engineering. Google did have a financial model that benefited themselves (that they weren't about to share). They were partly planning on revenue from advertising, but mostly they wanted to disrupt Apple's trajectory, and Apple's expected entry into advertising. If mobile devices take over as the computing platform for consumers, then Google's advertising channel, and the heart of its revenue, gets gutted. It doesn't take much of a crystal ball to see where Apple is going, and it's not a pretty picture for Google or anyone else.

Android was purchased by Google in 2005, two years before the iPhone was even introduced.  But this theme has been played before... <!-- more -->

Vic Gundotra, (1:00 above)  who started at Google in mid 2007, at about the same time that the iPhone was released, parallels this account at Google I/O.  Google's motivations were more to stop Apple than to find a new revenue stream.

Both stories seem to have some timing abnormalities, however.  The iPhone wasn't a success until at least late 2007.  I suspect that in Gundotra's case, he and Andy Rubin were talking about Windows Mobile/Blackberry/etc. in mid-2007 (he never specified Apple in the video above, but it made for good theater).

As for Gosling, Google probably had multiple versions of Android going before release (Rubin's background is with DangerOS, which was mobile Java-based), including some Mobile Java.  At some point before the G1 was released in 2008, they decided to bail on Sun and build their own Dalvik VM.  That's why they are getting sued today.

It is interesting, however to hear another account of Android's birth being more of a defensive measure against Apple's encroachment into Google's searching and advertising space.

The best offense is a good defense?

Gosling left Sun/Oracle (orcl) in April, saying on his blog,

"As to why I left, it's difficult to answer: Just about anything I could say that would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good. The hardest part is no longer being with all the great people I've had the privilege to work with over the years."