Andy Rubin, the boss of all things smartphone at Google, can barely contain his excitement. A huge robot he designed has just arrived at Google's office.
The machine's sole function? To inscribe the logo of the Android operating system - a squat, R2-D2-like robot - into the foam of employees' coffees.
Considering its purpose, Scribbles, as its known, appears comically overengineered. But the machine itself is not what's important to Rubin. It's the robot's brains, its operating system. Just like the majority of mobile gadgets sold in the world today, it runs on Android, Google's open-source software.
In the third quarter of 2012, worldwide manufacturers - among them Apple, Samsung, HTC and Research in Motion - shipped 181.1 million smartphones, according to market analytics group IDC. Google's Android operating system was installed on 75 percent of them, says IDC; Apple's system, iOS, was on about 15 percent. That market share for Android was a 91 percent jump from the previous year's third quarter.
While proud of Android's increasing reach, Rubin tries to be modest. He points to bigger trends like faster wireless Internet, improved batteries and falling hardware costs for Android's success.
"But obviously, it's hypercompetitive," he said of the smartphone market. "It's an opportunity to make the world a better place, but, if you're selling stuff, make a profit - if you're good."
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Amazon all try to keep customers within "walled gardens" or "ecosystems" of proprietary software. Operating systems, a form of ecosystem, provide a captive audience of customers for selling more software. The Windows operating system, for instance, is one of the main reasons Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are today's dominant business software.
For Google, Android is the means by which it keeps its popular services, such as Maps, Drive and YouTube, in play in the increasingly mobile Internet environment of smartphones and tablets.
"We wanted to be sure those devices in your pocket were able to get to Google," said Hiroshi Lockheimer, Android's vice president of engineering. "In the end, we're an advertising company and we make money through ads."
Google bought Android in 2005 as it became clear that the future of computing was on mobile devices. About two years would pass before Apple's Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, but BlackBerry, among others, had already shown the world that pocket-sized computers were where we were all heading. Rubin has been at the helm of Android's meteoric rise since the company's founding in 2003, and saw the first Android phone sold in 2008.
He shies from the idea that he is responsible for the proliferation of the open-source software.
"Everything has a point of inception, but after that, it's everybody's," he said. "Rather than being 'the father of,' we consider ourselves 'the shepherd of.' "
Making Android "everybody's" has been perhaps the key to its proliferation. Anyone can download it, for free. For large gadget manufacturers like Samsung and HTC, building and maintaining a working operating system is a huge task. Google's strategy was to give Android away, in the hope that manufacturers would use it so they didn't have to build one themselves.
Apple, which declined interviews for this story, has followed an opposite strategy. Every device that runs on iOS - iPhones and iPads - are made by Apple. Apple does not license or give away iOS. This gives Apple full control, but reduces the number of opportunities it has to expand the use of the operating system.
Still, that anyone can install Android in a device - examples range from microwaves to robots - makes it hard to keep Google's ecosystem cohesive. It also calls into question the definition of Android's "market share."
Lockheimer says there are really two kinds of Android: the versions where the manufacturers maintain compatibility with Google's latest releases (typically for smartphones and tablets); and uses where a manufacturer just wants the baseline code to get started and doesn't care about Google's updates.
"It's not about (Google) or one specific company," Lockheimer said.
However, Gartner research analyst Ken Dulaney points out that "forking" or "fragmentation" - when third parties change the software enough that it doesn't work with the parent version - poses problems. If everyone is running different versions of Android, he says, it's not really a cohesive ecosystem anymore, but many smaller ones.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble made custom versions of Android for their Kindle Fire and Nook tablets. And while Google has famously reduced service in China, Chinese manufacturers still customize Android for their devices.
These uses boost Android's market share numbers, but can mean that updates, and the Google software they contain, aren't incorporated.
Rubin and Lockheimer say Google understood that making Android open-source would present challenges. So it tries to slow the tide of companies going their own way, publishing technical guides and offering engineering help.
"Part of being open is that people are going to do things with" Android, Rubin said. "People are going to do dumb things with it. And if they are actually dumb, it'll fail. But if they build something that's awesome, I can learn from it. ... It's a mistake to think that one company can create the world's inventions."
Google takes other measures to encourage companies to stay within its ecosystem. Products in the Google Play Store, including music, books and movies, work only on compatible versions of Android. As it adds content to the Play Store, Google makes it more attractive to device makers to stay current.
A thriving app store can also help Google move beyond its core search business. A staggering 94 percent of its revenue in the third quarter of 2012 came from advertising.
But even if a device manufacturer wants to stay current with Google's version of Android, resources and time are challenges. When Google releases a new version - roughly every three to six months - manufacturers scramble to update their own software with the new code. Updates can take months and frustrate many gadget lovers who find their software out of date. Sometimes manufacturers choose not to make the update at all.
Rubin says he's not proud of this time lag and his team constantly takes steps to get the new code to manufacturers sooner. "It's never going to be zero, but you can shorten it to something that's not obnoxious," he says.
One area where Android has needed improvement is security. Because there are so many versions, viruses and malware can infiltrate open-source software more easily, making it harder for antivirus programs to keep tabs on all threats. As more people bring their devices to work, businesses must deal with smartphones that aren't sanctioned by their IT departments. This trend has helped bolster business penetration for all device makers.
When asked about Android's place in the business world, Rubin likens Android to a teenager trying to enter adulthood; the operating system has some features that businesses need for handling sensitive information, but still has work to do.
"It's really hard to start there," Rubin said of the enterprise market. "We (released Android) very fast to get up to speed with the competition, but now we're trying to get thoughtful about it. And enterprise falls into that category."
As Android evolves, the team continues to focus on, as Rubin put it, making the world - at least the world of mobile devices - a better place.
So what's next for our smartphones?
Lockheimer points to Google Now, a service that tries to predict what you want before you ask. For instance, Now may see that you have a meeting on your Google Calendar and pull up the address. When you unlock your phone, directions are already displayed on Google Maps.
"That's where I see a lot of our energy being spent in the future," Lockheimer said. "It learns about you. ... What if it starts learning other things about you - of course, if you've permitted it. That's another example of getting the technology out of the way so that it works for you."