Wired: How and Why Android Came to Be

You might already know that Google bought Android for US$50 million in 2005 after Danger co-founder Andy Rubin just asked them for an endorsement of it. But did you know that Google feared Windows Mobile? Yep, that one, Wired's massive top-to-bottom Android feature (with awesome art) reveals. Google thought Microsoft had beat it to mobile—it had a quickly growing platform, tied to Microsoft's ends. Google, on the other hand, was having its apps, like mobile Picasa, shot down by carriers who wanted to extort users to do the same thing Google offered for free.

That's just one reason it needed Android. Unlike Windows Mobile, which is all tangled up with Windows, Android's totally centered the web—where people naturally go to Google. While Android vs. iPhone is shaping up to be the new Windows vs. Mac (or open vs. closed), the iPhone actually proved the thesis that easy mobile net access is really easy access to Google: Christmas Day, the iPhone, "fewer than 5 percent of all smartphones worldwide, drove more traffic to Google than any other mobile device." By making Android all about net connectivity and giving developers a common platform to develop for hundreds of phone, the bet is that even with tons of third-party apps, it all comes back to Google. The web is the platform as much as the actual code-y bits.

Naturally, handset makers fear losing their brand in the hype, even as Google argues it means they don't have to waste time on the OS, but can concentrate on hardware and their own proprietary apps. (Course, if you're of the mind it's all about software now, then Google's argument is funky bunk. Hardware will matter maybe as much as Dell vs. HP—maybe that's a lot to you, maybe not so much. Besides, has HTC really had an identity in the first place?) Motorola is actually betting big, putting the original team behind the Razr on its Android phones, hoping it'll be a path to newfound glory.

Even if it (or anyone else) succeeds, ultimately they'll still just be a cog in the Android machine. By the same token, even if Android itself bombs out, as long as it forces open access to the internet, Google still stands to rake in the rewards. [Wired]