Fascinating piece in the Times on Andy Rubin, the guy behind the Gphone project — about which we are supposed to be getting some details on Monday (although actual devices running the Google mobile OS won’t be coming until next year sometime, supposedly).
Along with the requisite geek-lord toys (retinal scanner at the door, giant remote-control helicopters, robotic hand that bangs a gong instead of a doorbell, etc.), we get some history on Rubin, who joined Google after it acquired his mobile startup, Android. That was his second attempt to change the mobile device business — with the first being Danger Inc., the company that made the Sidekick smart-phone.
Although the Sidekick was hip and achieved a certain geek cred, it never really took off (Ionut Alex Chitu has more on the Sidekick at Google Operating System). Why? I wish I knew. I tried out an early model and really liked it. It was a little bulky, but the flip-out screen was pretty cool — and better still, it was a device that was designed for instant messaging and web surfing. Maybe it was just ahead of its time.
If it was ahead of its time, then so was one of Rubin’s other big projects: WebTV. Although lots of people are talking about the convergence of the television and the Internet now, putting the two together just didn’t work when WebTV tried it. Why not? I wish I knew. I came across a number of older people who liked it a lot, because they could sit on the couch and write emails or look at websites, but it never really took off.
Maybe Rubin will have better luck with the Gphone. This time (from the sounds of it) it’s just software and not hardware — although Joe Duck thinks that Rubin’s presence suggests otherwise — and it is designed to be as open as possible. And that means it is following what I believe to be a universal law, namely: Open wins.