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Thursday, December 19, 2013, 09:21 am PT (12:21 pm ET)

Google's reaction to Apple's iPhone unveiling: 'We're going to have to start over' on Android

The iPhone's 2007 introduction was not only a watershed moment for Apple, but also a turning point for Google's Android team, according to an excerpt from a new book on the subject.

Apple v Samsung

A slide from the Apple v Samsung trial


"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,'" former Apple engineering lead and early Android team member Chris DeSalvo is quoted as saying about Apple's handset. DeSalvo was interviewed by author Fred Vogelstein for his new book about the origins of the Android versus iPhone war, an excerpt from which was published in The Atlantic.

Another Apple alum, Android project co-founder Andy Rubin, is also said to have been taken aback by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs's presentation. "Holy crap, I guess we're not going to ship that phone," he reportedly told a colleague, taking about Google's BlackBerry-like "Sooner" device, which was to be the first flagship Android phone.

The Android team's response was to refocus development on a new touch-enabled device — which would later become HTC's T-Mobile G1 — and delay their planned public launch by a year. Several features from Sooner were held over, such as the phone's physical keyboard, but the software was completely reworked and redesigned for a touch interface. "Holy crap, I guess we're not going to ship that phone." — Andy Rubin

Vogelstein's narrative — that the Android team deliberately changed Android's direction to mimic that of Apple's iPhone — dovetails with Jobs's stance that Android is a "stolen product."

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Though Apple has not sued Google directly, the companies have waged a proxy war over Android both in court and in the conference rooms of regulators around the world. The war's most famous battle, Apple's landmark lawsuit against Samsung, recently concluded with Apple winning judgements totaling nearly $1 billion as a result of Samsung's infringement.