How Google reacted when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone

The Atlantic ran this excerpt from Fred Vogelstein’s book, Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. This looks really good.

By January 2007, they’d all worked sixty-to-eighty-hour weeks for fifteen months—some for more than two years—writing and testing code, negotiating soft­ware licenses, and flying all over the world to find the right parts, suppliers, and manufacturers. They had been working with proto­types for six months and had planned a launch by the end of the year . . . until Jobs took the stage to unveil the iPhone.

Chris DeSalvo’s reaction to the iPhone was immediate and visceral. “As a consumer I was blown away. I wanted one immediately. But as a Google engineer, I thought ‘We’re going to have to start over.’”

And this on Andy Rubin’s reaction:

On the day Jobs announced the iPhone, the director of the Android team, Andy Rubin, was six hundred miles away in Las Vegas, on his way to a meeting with one of the myriad handset makers and carriers that descend on the city for the Consumer Electronics Show. He reacted exactly as DeSalvo predicted. Rubin was so astonished by what Jobs was unveiling that, on his way to a meeting, he had his driver pull over so that he could finish watching the webcast.

“Holy crap,” he said to one of his colleagues in the car. “I guess we’re not going to ship that phone.”

I’ll say!



  • Domicinator

    Clicked over to the main article–very interesting write up on the whole situation, though I do think that they romanticize the situation a bit. Google saw the iPhone, new it would do well, and ripped it off. That’s pretty much how it went down. It wasn’t this sense of awe and wonder. It was just, “Clone that!”

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      But that’s a facile Cliff’s Notes version of the story. In order to know that they had to “clone that” they also had to be aware that their current efforts were now yesterday’s soup.

  • James Hughes

    I would love to see the prototypes before Google saw the iPhone. Does anyone have any links?

    I found this http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-2425_7-6596827.html

    If that is what they had, then yes I could see how they were not too comfortable after the announcement.

    Any more or others?

  • Lee Fyock

    That’s a much better reaction than some other phone makers had: “Meh, nobody will buy that. Carry on with our current product direction!” Google saw the future and changed their plans.

    • Moeskido

      They had the smarts to know what they were seeing.

  • Moeskido

    “It’s just one of those things that are obvious when you see it.”

    Until several years have passed, and your average Android apologist believes you came up with it yourself.

  • http://diskgrinder.tumblr.com diskgrinder

    Reportedly, the ringtone on the prototype google phone after the event was “you can’t touch this”

  • Herding_sheep

    I give Google credit for at least understanding what they were witnessing (a revolution) and had the guts to dump all their prior work. Better than Microsoft or RIMMs reactions of “it will never succeed, it’s a toy, etc”

    But on the other hand, their reaction to it was to rip it off. And then several years later, shamelessly attack Apple and pretend that the iPhone was an obvious invention, spread falsehoods to the public, and spend an awful lot of energy trying to discredit Apple and claim Apple did not invent/design anything significant in the iPhone.

    So while at least Google understood the gravity of the iPhones announcement, in following years they handled it with no class and shamelessness. Which really puts them back to square one with me, losing all of my respect for them.

    • matthewmaurice

      Don’t give Google too much credit vis a vis RIM and Microsoft. Yeah, they were smart enough to see that the iPhone had just changed everything, but they were in the position of potential disruptors as much as Apple. It’s easy to recognize a revolution when you’re ready to call for the King’s head too. RIM was the King, so it’s understandable that they’d assume their hegemony would continue. Ballmer basically saying “let them eat cake” pretty much assured Windows Mobile would suffer the same fate as the Bourbons.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

      Apropos of nothing, your avatar always makes me smirk.

  • Sigivald

    By January 2007, they’d all worked sixty-to-eighty-hour weeks for fifteen months—some for more than two years

    Way to burn out your team, Google.

    All that, for a Blackberry clone.

  • lomifeh

    Gives some perspective too on some things. It does make one wonder about the early partnership and if Google did leverage that and Schmidt for some stuff with Android.

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

    It’s somehow worse that Google (among others) was not only caught flat footed with no product to match the iPhone, but were neck deep in a line of products that they believed were going to change the game just as Apple flipped over the table.