Android Intelligence Interviews

Podcast: Talkin' tech with Android co-founder Rich Miner

One of Android's originators opens up about the original vision for the operating system and the part of the platform that never came to be -- plus what he's learned in his current role as one of Alphabet's startup advisers.

AI Podcast - Rich Miner

When you think about the founder of Android, Rich Miner probably isn't the name that comes to mind.

But guess what? While Andy Rubin may be the guy most people associate with Android's beginnings -- not surprisingly, given his rise to fame as the "father of Android" and long-time leader of Google's mobile efforts -- Rubin didn't raise Android alone. He was one of four people credited with founding the company and creating the foundation of what it's become today.

Rich Miner was also part of that ground-level collective. He was there before Android became a part of Google, and he played a pivotal role in shaping the platform over its first several years of existence.

In fact, Miner was working on ideas that'd influence the operating system long before "Android" even became a proper noun. He created an early voice assistant called Wildfire -- a precursor to the Google Nows, Siris, and Alexas of today -- and ended up working for a European mobile carrier, where he helped launch the first Windows Mobile phone and also invested in a little startup called Danger. If that name sounds familiar, it should: That's the same little startup founded by one Mr. Andy Rubin.

"That's how I got to know Andy and saw what he was doing with smartphones and devices and platforms," Miner recalls.

That wouldn't be the last time Miner and Rubin would cross paths, of course. The two ran into each other a short time later, when Rubin had left Danger and was working on a camera OS that wasn't quite panning out the way he had hoped. Miner and Rubin joined forces and started reshaping the software into an open source alternative for phone-makers -- an end goal they weren't alone in pursuing.

"There were two other efforts to build standardized Linux platforms for mobile phones," Miner notes. "Even Samsung had multiple [versions] of their own internal Linux-based handset OS activities going on."

Android eventually made its way into Google's arms, as we all know, and Rubin, Miner, and the rest of their then-small team -- including current Android chief Hiroshi Lockheimer -- went to work transforming the project from lofty concept in ever-evolving reality.

"This was still certainly in Google's eyes a very speculative project," Miner says. "You could have never anticipated the type of growth that mobile platforms have had."

I sat down to talk with Miner about Android's beginnings and how it evolved from the initial pre-Google pitch ("We were talking about Windows Mobile and ... [how] there should be an alternative") to the early product developed in Google's now-iconic Building 44. He shared some anecdotes I'd never before heard, including how the vision for Android came to be and how the platform almost had two separate parts -- one of which never lived to see the light of day. 

We talked a lot about Miner's work since leaving Android, too -- because impossible as it may seem, his present is no less fascinating than his past. Miner moved from Android to Google Ventures (now known simply as GV), where he continues to find, invest in, and advise up-and-coming startups with his unique mix of insight and expertise. His roster is jam-packed with names both familiar and not yet commonplace, including Nextbit -- the company behind the innovative Robin Android phone.

Suffice it to say, Miner has his finger on the pulse of what's happening in the mobile tech landscape and a perspective unlike anyone else's. So in addition to all the experience-specific subjects, I jumped on the chance to talk with him about the broader state of mobile tech today -- who's doing things right, what concepts are missing the mark, and what we as consumers should really expect to see in the near and distant future.

You can check out my full chat with Rich Miner in the latest episode of the Android Intelligence podcast. Stream the audio in the player below, download it here (right-click and save) for later listening, or pull it up and subscribe in your favorite podcasting app.

The show is available pretty much everywhere; just search whatever podcasting app you like for Android Intelligence -- or use the links below to add it directly into any of the following players:

You can also manually subscribe by pasting the show's full RSS path -- -- into an app's search or subscribe box.

Happy listening!

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