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Andy Rubin at the Oracle trial: I didn't expect Android to contribute greatly to Google's ad revenues

Andy Rubin at the Oracle trial: I didn't expect Android to contribute greatly to Google's ad revenues


Android head Andy Rubin wrapped up this testimony in the Oracle vs. Google copyright case, but not before stating that he didn't anticipate Android would be a large contributor to Google's bottom line.

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Google's Andy Rubin wrapped up his testimony in the Google vs. Oracle case this morning, but not before making some somewhat surprising statements about his expectations for the mobile operating system. When asked by Oracle attorney David Boies about what purpose Android serves for the search giant, he echoed CEO Larry Page, stating that the operating system "makes it easier to access Google services." Pressed as to whether he expected Android to contribute greatly to the company's ad revenues, however, Rubin waffled, finally stating that he did not after Judge William Alsup instructed him to answer the question directly. The admission sounds strange given the platform's enormous success, but recent revenue revelations provide a greater context for Android's early days.

"We paid these companies for contributions."

Much of Rubin's time on the stand focused on how Google had put together the Android operating system, creating its own alleged clean-room implementation, and relying on the open-source community to help it flesh out the various libraries used by the OS. "We paid these companies for contributions," Rubin said, explaining how companies like PacketVideo — upon whose work Android's MediaFramework library is based — came to open source their work to be included in Android. "When we went shopping for Android we plucked" various pieces of open-source software so it could be added to the project, Rubin said.

The 37 core libraries in question, however, were created primarily by Google and a subcontractor that Google hired called Noser Engineering. According to documents shown in the courtroom today, Google's contract with Noser allowed it to draw upon several sources for its implementation: Google's own code, Apache Harmony, and GNU Classpath. The use of Harmony is a bit of a sticking point, however. Emails disclosed earlier in the trial showed that both Bob Lee, who had been working on the Android core libraries at Google at the time, as well as then-CEO Eric Schmidt were both aware of Sun's concerns over Apache Harmony, and that the only license the company had been willing to offer Apache was one that would have prohibited Harmony from being used on mobile devices.

"This general support would be good for my business."

Rubin stated that he didn't understand that Harmony wasn't approved for use on mobile devices at the time, and that the issue hadn't been broached with him, either. In fact, given that Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO at the time, posted a blog entry congratulating Android upon its official announcement, Rubin stated that he felt he had implied approval from the company and the Java community at large. "I did in fact come to understand that this general support would be good for my business," he said.

Boies called the conclusion into question, pointing out that the congratulations came before Android's SDK was available — and by implication, perhaps before Sun would have realized Google's larger strategy and implementation. Rubin admitted to keeping several elements of Google's strategy secret from Sun when trying to hammer out a plan to work together. "Well yeah, I think during our discussions I didn't fully divulge our strategy, our business, our technology," he said. "I only shared information that they needed to know for us to accomplish a partnership."

That's not say the day was without its share of veiled barbs and industry commentary. When explaining the structure of the Open Handset Alliance, whose partners help create Android handsets, Rubin was asked how many of the top manufacturers were involved. "Everybody except Nokia," he said. Then, correcting himself a moment later, "Everybody except Nokia and Apple."