Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android, claims that the popular mobile operating system was originally designed for digital cameras, not phones. In an interview published by PC World, Rubin said that the original concept, as pitched to investors back in 2004, was for 'a camera platform with a cloud portion for storing images online'. By the time Google acquired Android in 2005, however, the plan had changed. Rubin became a Google executive following the acquisition and Android was repurposed, to be developed for mobile handsets. 

Andy Rubin co-founded Android and became a Google executive in 2005, following Android's acquisition by the search giant in 2005. He stepped down from Google on April 16th.

According to the PCWorld interview, the strategy changed after Rubin's team looked in more detail at the market, and saw that growth in digital cameras was slowing. In contrast, interest in smartphones was starting to intensify as hardware costs came down. Rather than charge for its operating system, Android decided that the OS should be free  'because we knew the industry was price-sensitive'.

Interestingly, given Apple's pivotal role in bringing smartphones into the mainstream, Rubin claims that back then 'I was worried about Microsoft and I was worried about Symbian. I wasn't worried about iPhone yet'. 

The HTC Dream (T-Mobile T1 in Europe) was the first phone to run Android. Released in 2008, the Dream had a physical QWERTY keyboard and was powered by a 528 MHz processor.
Samsung's Galaxy camera was announced last year - eight years after Rubin's original pitch for Android as a camera operating system.

The rest, of course, is history. As the interview points out, early Android estimates of 9% market share in the US and Europe by 2010 have since been proven wildly conservative - 'Android hit 72% last year'. Only now are we seeing Rubin's original vision of Android as a camera OS come true, in products like Samsung's Galaxy Camera and the Nikon Coolpix S800c. And as Samsung and Nikon know, even after eight years of technological development, it isn't easy (or cheap) to mate what is now a mobile OS to compact cameras. 

Interestingly, DPReview has spoken to a chip manufacturer that makes System on Chip (SoC) modules for digital cameras which claims that it has seen little demand for versions of its modules that incorporate the Android OS. Instead, we are told, camera manufacturers are asking for SoC solutions that incorporate connectivity options and higher processing power, but minus the expensive and power-sapping operating system. So maybe Android's shift in emphasis from cameras to smartphones back in 2004 was a smart move...