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

In light of the recent The Atlantic article, Arnoud Wokke, editor at the popular Dutch technology site, 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.

Thread beginning with comment 579285
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[4]: Comment by Shane
by Shane on Sat 21st Dec 2013 07:42 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Shane"
Member since:

Except that we do know what Android looked like before the iPhone. It was a Blackerry clone.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[5]: Comment by Shane
by ricegf on Sat 21st Dec 2013 13:09 in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by Shane"
ricegf Member since:

It's almost like you didn't read the article or the rest of the comments here.

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!)

So you are of the opinion that the Android team was AWESOME and rewrote and developer-released a new architecture in less than a year? After 30 years in the computer industry, I just don't believe that's possible.

In my opinion (from an old hardware guy's perspective), the most incredible thing about the original iPhone was how much freaking hardware they packed into that one device. Earlier phones including the Android prototypes were basically Palm-like minimalist mobile devices. The iPhone was surprisingly close to a full mobile desktop in a very densely packed and very usable mobile package, with a lot of new tech they didn't invent (like the multi-touch screen and battery) but assembled and shipped well ahead of the competition.

I've always stood in awe of Apple's hardware engineers. Not sure why they don't get at least as much credit as their software team. *shrugs*

(Disclaimer: I used an original iPad for years, use a Nexus now, and would rather use Gnu-based Linux, so no dog in this fight.)

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[6]: Comment by Shane
by Shane on Sun 22nd Dec 2013 00:48 in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by Shane"
Shane Member since:

Not an architecture reboot, but a change in direction to copy the iPhone's direct user interaction style. Because Android was not architected from the ground up to prioritise extreme UI responsiveness, meant that the Android UI has always felt laggy compared to iOS. Something that Project Butter aimed to fix, with it did mostly successfully IMHO.

Reply Parent Score: 3