I, Robot: The Man Behind the Google Phone
By JOHN MARKOFF The New York Times November 4, 2007
Mountain View, Calif.
A RETINAL scanner emitting a blue glow monitors the entrance to Andy Rubin's home in the foothills overlooking Silicon Valley. If the scanner recognizes you, the door unlocks automatically. (The system makes it easier to deal with former girlfriends, Mr. Rubin likes to joke. No messy scenes retrieving keys - it's just a simple database update.)
Those forced to use the doorbell are greeted with another technological marvel: a robotic arm inside the glass foyer grips a mallet and then strikes a large gong. Although Mr. Rubin won't reveal its cost, it may be one of the world's most expensive doorbells.
"It's not about the cost," said Zarko Draganic, a former colleague of Mr. Rubin's at Apple Inc. "It's the classic Rubin thing: You do it for the sake of doing it and because it's cool, and as a result there's a childlike innocence about it."
Mr. Rubin is one of the primary architects behind another product that also smacks of potential =FCber-coolness - the Google Phone. As Google's "director of mobile platforms," Mr. Rubin oversees dozens of engineers who are developing the software at the company's sprawling campus here. The software embodies the promise of extending Google's reach at a time when cellphones allow consumers to increasingly untether themselves from their desktop computers, as well as the threat that greater digital mobility poses to Google's domination of Internet search.
The Google Phone - which, according to several reports, will be made by Google partners and will be available by the middle of 2008 - is likely to provide a stark contrast to the approaches of both Apple and Microsoft to the growing market for smartphones. Google, according to several people with direct knowledge of its efforts, will give away its software to hand-set makers and then use the Google Phone's openness as an invitation for software developers and content distributors to design applications for it.
If the effort succeeds, it will be the most drastic challenge to date of the assertion by Microsoft - the godfather of the desktop PC - that Google and other members of the so-called open-source world can imitate but not innovate.