Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Dec 2013 11:11 UTC
Google

In light of the recent The Atlantic article, Arnoud Wokke, editor at the popular Dutch technology site Tweakers.net, pointed me to an interesting OSNews comment by Dianne Hackborn, former Be engineer (that's still major street cred right here), former Palm engineer, and Android engineer at Google since early 2006. Her recollection of the story regarding the cancellation of the BlackBerry-esque 'Sooner' prototype and the touchscreen 'Dream' prototype is entirely different from what Vogelstein states in his article.

From a software perspective, Sooner and Dream were basically the same -- different form-factors, one without a touch screen -- but they were not so different as this article indicates and the switch between them was not such a huge upheaval.

The main reason for the differences in schedule was hardware: Sooner was a variation of an existing device that HTC was shipping, while Dream was a completely new device with a lot of things that had never been shipped before, at least by HTC (new Qualcomm chipset, sensors, touch screen, the hinge design, etc). So Sooner was the safe/fast device, and Dream was the risky/long-term device.

However the other factor in this was the software. Work on the Android we know today (which is what is running in that Sooner) basically started around late 2005 / early 2006. I got to Google at the beginning of 2006, and it was around that time we started work on everything from the resource system through the view hierarchy, to the window manager and activity manager that you know today. Some work on stuff we have today (like SurfaceFlinger) was started a bit earlier, but also after Google acquired Android.

Even if there was no iPhone, there is a good chance that Sooner would have been dropped, since while it was a good idea to get Android out quickly from a hardware perspective, the software schedule was much longer. I don't recall the exact dates, but I believe the decision to drop Sooner was well before the iPhone announcement... though we continued to use it for quite a while internally for development, since it was the only semi-stable hardware platform we had. If nothing else, it helped remove significant risk from the schedule since software development could be done on a relatively stable device while the systems team brought up the new hardware in parallel.

This is very different from the somewhat internally inconsistent story Vogelstein tells. I'm very curious to find out where, exactly, the truth lies.

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RE[5]: This means.....?
by hackbod on Fri 20th Dec 2013 23:34 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: This means.....?"
hackbod
Member since:
2006-02-15

The quote from DeSalvo is completely not true. As I said in the original quoted piece, pretty much all of the Android system as released in 1.0 was under development in that shape by early 2006. I can say for the stuff I worked on -- resource system, binder, package manager, window manager, activity manager, parts of the view hierarchy and many of the framework APIs -- none of this changed at all significantly due to the iPhone, and it certainly was in no way shape or form started over. At all. Period. It just did not happen.

And you'll note that architecturally Android is quite a bit different from iOS. It was designed and implemented completely independently from iOS, without knowing about the iPhone. In fact many aspects of the two system designs are more similar today, and that is in no small part from iOS becoming more similar to Android -- things like sandboxed applications, application state saving and cached processes, etc.

Also keep in mind that the first release of Android where this really matters was November 2007. All of the Android architecture that we know today was in that initial developer release, all the stuff I mentioned above. This certainly didn't all get written in the time from when the iPhone was first shown in January. And that developer release had a lot of key features that Apple would adopt later -- including third party native applications. (If Android did all get written in that short time... wow, we are AWESOME!)

Also, carefully read your last quote. The actual quote is “We knew that Apple was going to announce a phone. Everyone knew that. We just didn’t think it would be that good." This says nothing about typing on a keyboard. The author is clearly trying to make things sound a certain way that are not necessarily supported by the statement he's gotten from people, and you are falling for it.

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