Dogfight review: The war between Apple and Google

Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein is a tale of two companies, two of the most important of the current era, how they both started working on phone projects, and how it not only destroyed their friendships, but eventually the careers of many involved. Much of it is already well known. Google, worried that Microsoft would dominate phones the way they had desktops, and shut them down the way Netscape had been shut down, bought Andy Rubin's company, Android, and set about making a Windows Mobile/BlackBerry/Nokia communicator competitor. Apple, meanwhile adapted their stalled tablet project into the iPhone. And that's when it gets interesting...

Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergei Brin of Google, apparently, didn't tell Andy Rubin that Vic Gundotra had been secretly working with Apple to make sure Google services were front and center on the iPhone. Rubin found out when the world did, when Steve Jobs took to the Macworld stage in 2007 and showed off the iPhone. Rubin realized at that moment the current version of Android was already obsolete, but he also saw weaknesses in the iPhone, and a way to beat it.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergei Brin had also kept Steve Jobs and Apple in the dark about Android, downplaying its importance to them, saying it wouldn't compete with the iPhone, and claiming they weren't sure it would ever become a releasable product. Meanwhile a confluence of carriers and manufacturers, now reeling to compete with Apple, were suddenly incredibly receptive to Rubin and what would become the all-new Android.

As it became evident Android would indeed compete with the iPhone, Steve Jobs became livid. A meeting happened, recounted almost as dark matter - by its consequences. At Jobs' insistence, they pulled multitouch gestures from Android, and made the unlock more complicated. It was then Rubin's turn rage, incredulous that Google had caved in to what he considered Apple's ridiculous demands. He needn't have worried - the capitulation didn't last long, and soon Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and other devices shipped as full on competitors to the iPhone, and Android's market share exploded.

The war had begun.

Vogelstein tells the tale well, switching points of view between the two companies and their projects, yet weaving the elements together inexorably together. There are plenty of great stories - the archeology of modern consumer electronics - which I love. And the account stays balanced, portraying both companies and both sides not in stark black and white, good and evil terms, but as people and businesses that saw the future and did what they had to claim it.

The beginning of Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution is better than the end. It loses steam towards the end as events become both more recent and less impactful, and as Vogelstein turns from recounting the story to filling in some of his own ideas on where the various industries are headed. I read the early chapters, wrapped. The last few, I ended up skimming.

Overall Vogelstein does a great job telling a good tale. That it's a fairly well-known tale within the industry doesn't matter, there's enough color to more than hold its own. From how Rubin persevered in getting Android to market, to how iPhone engineers took shots during the Macworld Keynote, it will likely appeal to readers of iMore and Mobile Nations alike. Whether you're head-over-heels in love with iPhone, or totally in love with Android, Vogelstein's book will add tons of perspective and a healthy dose of nuance to the story of both.

I enjoyed it, and recommend it. Grab it now on iBooks or Kindle.

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