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Android originally designed as smart-camera system

The creators of the dominant mobile operating system changed direction after the smartphone market took off, says Android co-founder Andy Rubin.

The Galaxy Camera. A nod to Android's beginnings.
Sarah Tew

Back when Microsoft and Symbian ruled the smartphone market, before iOS or the iPhone even existed, Android was an operating system for cameras.

Android co-founder Andy Rubin said today that the operating system, now a dominant force in the smartphone market, was actually built for digital cameras. When smartphones took off, the Android team switched gears and tweaked the system accordingly.

Rubin -- who recently left the Android team to head up a new endeavor within parent company Google -- talked about Android's beginnings at an economic summit in Tokyo, according to PC World.

The Android creators intended to develop a camera platform with cloud storage online for photos. The cameras would be connected to a home computer and linked to an "Android Datacenter." Rubin's presentation included the slides he originally showed investors in April 2004. He explained that the team quickly recognized the digital camera market was slowing. Five months after that first pitch, the team unveiled a new plan -- Android for handsets.

The same software is now at the center of a legal battle between Oracle, which claims Android infringes on its patents, and Google, which acquired Android in 2005.

Rubin said his company saw an opportunity to quickly grow Android as a platform. Today, Android accounts for more than 70 percent of the smartphone market.

Though Android deviated from its original plan, later intentions were fulfilled. Despite the fact that he never mentioned cameras specifically, Rubin said during an interview with CNET in 2007 that he saw Android running on lots of connected devices:

The sky is the limit. This platform has been contemplated in different devices, from car navigation systems to set-top boxes to laptop computers and, of course, cell phones.

As Rubin predicted, users can now find Android running on tablets, TVs, kitchen appliances, and, of course, smart cameras.