Androids : The Team That Built the Android Operating System (2021) by Chet Haase is an excellent history of the team that built the remarkable Android Operating System. Everyday, like billions of other people on the planet I use my Android phone and it’s great to have a record like this of the fairly small team who created it. It’s not a business book but rather and engineering history book.
Haase is an engineer who worked on Android starting in 2010 and he got great access to the people involved in creating Android from 2004. Android started out as a company that was going to develop common software for cameras. Andy Rubin who had founded the mobile phone company Danger and Chris White who had worked on the WebTV project got together and started the company that would become Android. They quickly pivoted to working on a common OS for phones.
There are about 50 people mentioned in the book. Each gets a short bio, a description of how they got into the team and what they did. Most of the bios have when they learned to program. The book states that there were about 100 people working on Android when the 1.0 release came about.
Many of the people who worked on Android worked on WebTV, or at Palm, on BeOS or on Danger. It’s a really interesting just how many of them had worked together previously and how they had experience building an OS for a small device.
It is remarkable is how well the Google acquisition worked. The Android team seems to have been very wisely left alone by Google and they even had to work out ways to hire people to avoid Google’s normal hiring process of the time. Which is, in itself, also pretty interesting.
The book describes in detail many different parts of the Android system and who worked on them and how they came about. The Dalvik VM, the UI widgets, the home screen, the messaging program, the mail program for the device, the browser, the media toolkit, the basic drawing routines, the battery monitoring and more. The detail is definitely needed.
Android is often said to have changed from a Blackberry clone to an iOS clone. There is no doubt iOS affected Android, but as the book points Android changed to be more iOS like in 3 months because the design was so well done and the team was ready for changes to come.
It’s really interesting to ponder why Android came out of Silicon Valley and Google rather than from Nokia or RIM. The book describes how it came about and has an excellent series of quotes from the team about why it succeeded and they say “it was the right product at the right time”. But there are other factors that the book also points out.
Androids is an excellent read and a real credit to Haase. It does get a little repetitive in parts, but that’s part of recording where each person came from and which machine they learned to code on. Androids is very much worth a read for anyone interested in this kind of history and who wants to learn about the creation of a hugely successful operating system.