September 26, 2018
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Android

Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google, based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and other open source software and designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In addition, Google has further developed Android TV for televisions, Android Auto for cars, and Wear OS for wrist watches, each with a specialized user interface. Variants of Android are also used on game consoles, digital cameras, PCs and other electronics.

Initially developed by Android Inc., which Google bought in 2005, Android was unveiled in 2007, with the first commercial Android device launched in September 2008. The operating system has since gone through multiple major releases, with the current version being 8.1 “Oreo”, released in December 2017. The core Android source code is known as Android Open Source Project (AOSP), and is primarily licensed under the Apache License.

Android is also associated with a suite of proprietary software developed by Google, including core apps for services such as Gmail and Google Search, as well as the application store and digital distribution platform Google Play, and associated development platform. These apps are licensed by manufacturers of Android devices certified under standards imposed by Google, but AOSP has been used as the basis of competing Android ecosystems, such as Amazon.com’s Fire OS, which utilize their own equivalents to the Google Mobile Services.

Android has been the best-selling OS worldwide on smartphones since 2011 and on tablets since 2013. As of May 2017, it has over two billion monthly active users, the largest installed base of any operating system, and as of June 2018, the Google Play store features over 3.3 million apps.

Android Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, in October 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. Rubin described the Android project as “tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner’s location and preferences”. The early intentions of the company were to develop an advanced operating system for digital cameras, and this was the basis of its pitch to investors in April 2004. The company then decided that the market for cameras was not large enough for its goals, and by five months later it had diverted its efforts and was pitching Android as a handset operating system that would rival Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Rubin had difficulty attracting investors early on, and Android was facing eviction from its office space. Steve Perlman, a close friend of Rubin, brought him $10,000 in cash in an envelope, and shortly thereafter wired an undisclosed amount as seed funding. Perlman refused a stake in the company, and has stated “I did it because I believed in the thing, and I wanted to help Andy.”

In July 2005, Google acquired Android Inc. for at least $50 million. Its key employees, including Rubin, Miner and White, joined Google as part of the acquisition. Not much was known about the secretive Android at the time, with the company having provided few details other than that it was making software for mobile phones. At Google, the team led by Rubin developed a mobile device platform powered by the Linux kernel.