A Smartphone Fanboy’s Christmas Wish Come True

Dogfight

In the absence of cheap unlimited LTE data plans I submit that the next best thing would be a copy of Fred Vogelstein’s Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. I’ve only read the first five chapters, and I literally cannot wait to get back to it.

Thoughtful as your friends, family and/or loved ones may be, waiting for someone to gift you this book is a risk you can’t afford to take. To prove that Dogfight is worthy of a space on your phone, kindle or bookshelf is my goal for this Christmas Eve post.

Here’s but a taste of what you’re in for…

Smoke & Mirrors

The mobile phone industry changed forever after Steve Jobs demoed the original iPhone on stage at MacWorld in January, 2007. It also sent the Android team immediately back to the drawing board. What I didn’t know was how much of a kludge it all was.

In the days leading up to MacWorld the multiple iPhone prototypes were barely working; anything but a specific sequence of actions would make the software crash. And sometimes, the specific and rehearsed sequence of actions would seize up the phone as well.

To ensure a successful demo of the iPhone’s features, these additional steps were taken:

  • Four full bars of signal strength were hard-coded to the iPhone prototypes’ displays;
  • Additional antenna wire was soldered to the entire length of cable running from the iPhones to the video projector;
  • AT&T built a new tower right beside the Moscone Center specifically for the event.

Duplicity

When development on iOS first began, there were two options: (1) scale up the iPod OS to add smartphone functionality, or (2) scale down OS X for a phone. Steve Jobs wanted the latter but didn’t think it could be done, so he deliberately pitted two software teams against each other to see who would come up with the better solution.

Years later after the iPhone had gone on sale, Google was reaping the benefits of having their search engine and mapping product front and centre on Apple’s runaway hit. At the same time, Andy Rubin and a small team were working on Android in secret. The top brass at Google were as yet unsure about the future of their in-house smartphone OS, so they continued their support of iPhone in public while keeping tabs on Android in private. Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt fully committed to Android only after Andy Rubin complained to them that they were “giving away their best stuff” to Apple.

Sin & Redemption

The announcement of Android and the Open Handset Alliance was apparently too vague to raise the ire of anyone at Apple, but it was an entirely different story with the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1. Steve Jobs threatened to sue Google if their first phone shipped with a multi-touch screen, despite being presented with evidence of “prior art” — that is, proof that Apple didn’t invent the technology. Google capitulated, and without multi-touch the G1 was a flop.

And then a funny thing happened: Instead of dismissing Android the mobile phone industry galvanized around it. Google found unlikely allies in Motorola (then on the verge of bankruptcy) and Verizon. Together the three companies launched the original Droid in October of 2009, successfully marketed as the anti-iPhone. And Android has been on a tear ever since.

Whether you fall into the Android or Apple camp (or neither), Dogfight is full of fascinating revelations about the history of the modern smartphone. If you don’t find it under your tree tomorrow morning it’s worth seeking out, and will make for a great holiday read.

Consider it my Christmas gift to you. 😀