Andy Rubin, the founder of Android, spoke at a summit in Tokyo about Android, and admitted that they initially wanted to target Android at smart cameras, rather than smartphones, but as smartphones started taking off, they refocused on them.
"The exact same platform, the exact same operating system we built for cameras, that became Android for cellphones"
"We decided digital cameras wasn't actually a big enough market," said Rubin. "I was worried about Microsoft and I was worried about Symbian, I wasn't worried about iPhone yet."
Andy Rubin also says that they preferred to keep Android free because they were focused on growth, not per unit income, since the industry was very price sensitive.
"We wanted as many cellphones to use Android as possible. So instead of charging $99, or $59, or $69, to Android, we gave it away for free, because we knew the industry was price sensitive," he said.
The question is why is Andy Rubin mentioning this now, and not years before? This could be a hint that Google will become a lot more serious about Android powered cameras in the near future. Google might think it's now the right now to focusing on smart cameras, for new growth opportunities for Android, before the smartphone growth starts stagnating.
Vic Gundotra also had an interesting comment a few months earlier, when he said the next Nexus will have an "insanely great" camera. So Google could be focusing not just on smart cameras in the future, but on smartphone cameras, too.
So far Android-based cameras haven't caught off in a big way. The Nikon one came with Android 2.3, so nothing too exciting about it. The Samsung Galaxy Camera came with Jelly Bean, but had pretty poor camera performance for the price they were asking.
There might still be a future for Android-powered cameras, but probably not at the low-end and mid-end, but at the high-end, like on mirrorless cameras, and DSLR's. For everything else, smartphones will take over. That's why it's so important for Google and other manufacturers to start making radically better smartphone cameras.
There's a real opportunity there to find growth from the point and shoot camera market, and get everyone to buy smartphone with a high-end camera, instead of a point and shoot that they need to carry along their phone anyway.