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Google: 'We did not follow Apple into phone market'

Page accuses Jobs of 'rewriting history'

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Google co-founder Larry Page has denied that Google entered the phone market after Apple and the iPhone, accusing Steve Jobs of "rewriting history."

In February, at an Apple town hall meeting, according to various company employees speaking with the press, Jobs dubbed Google's "don't be evil" mantra "bullshit," lambasting his former Mountain View ally for treading on his turf. "We did not enter the search business," Jobs said. "[Google] entered the phone business. Make no mistake: they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them."

In June, Jobs echoed these comments at a videotaped conference. But this week, speaking to Reuters, Larry Page characterized the Apple man's words as "a little bit of rewriting history," insisting that Android did not come after the iPhone.

"We had been working on Android a very long time, with the notion of producing phones that are Internet enabled and have good browsers and all that because that did not exist in the marketplace," Page said. "I think that characterization of us entering after is not really reasonable."

Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January 2007, and it arrived in stores that summer. Google announced its Android mobile operating system that November, and the first Android handset debuted from US carrier T-Mobile nearly a year later, in September 2008. But in 2005, Google purchased mobile startup Android Inc., whose work would play into the company's mobile OS.

This spring, at the company's annual developer conference, Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra told the world that Mountain View had developed Android in an effort to avoid "a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, and one carrier would be our only choice." And as he spoke, an image appeared behind him that read "Not a Future We Want. 1984," turning the tables on the iconic Apple television ad that announced the original Mactintosh.

"We had been working on Android a very long time, with the notion of producing phones that are Internet enabled and have good browsers and all that because that did not exist in the marketplace. I think that [Steve Jobs'] characterization of us entering after is not really reasonable.'"

—Larry Page claims iPhone did not come before Android

But we should also add that Steve Jobs' verbal assault on Google came less than a month after the arrival of the Nexus One, the Google-branded Android phone sold from Google's very own webstore. Google went to great lengths to show that it had not designed the phone's hardware — HTC was the designer of record — but Mountain View had become a phone seller, not just an OS maker. Head Android man Andy Rubin said the company's new webstore model would "fundamentally change the way phones are sold."

Less than six months later, Google pulled the plug on its webstore, presumably under pressure from manufacturers and carriers it had partnered with to build so many other Android phones. Verizon Wireless, the largest carrier in the US, was slated to offer service with the Nexus One through the webstore, but this never happened, and the Nexus One was shuttled into traditional carrier retail channels.

It was rather surprising then that Google CEO Eric Schmidt dubbed the Nexus One a complete success. "The idea a year and a half ago was to do the Nexus One to try to move the phone platform hardware business forward. It clearly did," Schmidt he told The Telegraph earlier this month.

"It was so successful, we didn't have to do a second one. We would view that as positive but people criticised us heavily for that. I called up the board and said: 'Ok, it worked. Congratulations - we're stopping'."

Even before the Nexus One, Google was working quite closely with partners such as Motorola, Verizon, HTC, and T-Mobile to build Android Phones. Despite Google's characterization of the Nexus One as a "superphone," the key difference between it and all other Androids is that it was, well, sold by Google. Even Google open source guru Chris DiBona said he preferred the Verizon Droid.

As late as March, a Google employee told us that the company was planning a Nexus Two. But with his Telegraph interview, Schmidt at least confirmed this project is now dead.

It was also in March that Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt conspicuously met for coffee on a sidewalk in Palo Alto, California. Though Schmidt was forced to resign from Apple's board last year, it seems he wants to us to believe they're still pals.

Speaking with Reuters this week, Schmidt pointed out that Apple and Google maintain their iPhone partnerships. The Jesus Phone ships with Google Maps and YouTube applications, and Google is the default search engine. But Gundotra's performance at this year's Google I/O conference shows that tension between the companies persists.

After that 1984 jibe, he ridiculed Jobs and Apple for banning Flash from the iPhone and the iPad, showed the latest version of Android trumping the iPad on JavaScript performance, and took a dig at the App Store police.

Not that Google is denying there are tensions between it and Apple. It's merely denying that it followed Apple into the phone market. ®

Update: This story has been updated to show that Google purchased Android Inc. in 2005.

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