The original Android concept was developed by two men: Andrew Rubin, an engineer from New York, and Rich Miner, a computer scientist. Google acquired their company Android Inc in 2005 and put Rubin in charge of further Android development.
To say that he made an excellent job of it would be an understatement and in 2007 the Open Handset Alliance was launched. This was a consortium of several major players in the mobile handset business, with the goal of developing an open standard for mobile devices. The first implementation of this was Android which was based on Linux.
Android is completely open source and there is no licence fee to pay, however, Google owns the copyright to the Android brand (not the software) and in order for a phone manufacturer to claim that their product uses the Android platform and in order to access the Android application market, the handset must be qualified by Google. Since its release there have been numerous updates to the original code including bug fixes and improved functionality.
Android is more than just an operating system (OS). It combines the OS with middleware and applications.
The system is built on a Linux Kernel which includes the various drivers and power management functions. Next is Android runtime which includes the basic libraries and provides the basic functionality written in Java. Next are the C and C++ component libraries.
On top of this comes the application framework which is an open development platform so that external developers can create new and exciting applications. Finally there are the basic applications themselves which include a browser, email, contacts, maps and so forth. It is the nature of the openness of Android that has encouraged the development of so many applications, which run to many tens of thousands.
Would Android have happened had it not been for the pioneering work carried out by Apple on the iPhone operating system which is known as iOS? Although that is a question we cannot really answer, certainly iOS did have a significant influence on Android. However, the major difference remains that whilst Android is open source and is used by a large number of manufacturers, Apple refuses to licence iOS to any third party.