Feature Article

May 16, 2013

Google Android's New Chief Sheds Light on Ecosystem

While Andy Rubin’s exit from the Android division in March came as a surprise to many in the industry, equally surprising was his replacement. In a blog post in March, Google CEO Larry Page announced the appointment of Chrome chief Sundar Pichai as the new Android division head, replacing the outgoing Android developer Rubin who stepped down to pursue other interests of the company.

According to Page’s blog post, Pichai will lead Android, in addition to his existing work with Chrome and Apps. “Pichai has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use—and he loves a big bet,” wrote Page. “So while Andy’s a really hard act to follow, I know Sundar will do a tremendous job doubling down on Android as we work to push the ecosystem forward,” added Page.

Given Pichai’s background and experience, the logical question on everyone’s mind is whether the new Android chief means the merger of two operating systems, Chrome and Android, going forward. To clarify this industry speculation, Wired writer Steven Levy recently interviewed Pichai. Incidentally, this was the first interview given to the media since he took over the new position.

In this interview, Pichai clearly told the reporter that going forward he plans to keep Android and Chrome as separate OSes because they each perform distinct functions that serve different purposes. In the current environment, he added, “Google was more than happy to keep plugging resources developing two separate operating systems.” However, Pichai indicated that the picture may look different a year or two from now.

Nevertheless, Pichai was adamant that both Android and Chrome are large and open platforms that are growing very fast. Google continues to invest in both the OSes as there is need for both the platforms, Pichai said.

Regarding Facebook’s Home app, the new Android chief did not see it as a competition but as innovation on an open platform. Consequently, he was excited that Facebook thought of Android first in this app.  

Media reports indicate that Pichai is a nine-year veteran of Google. In 2011, he turned down an opportunity to lead the product division at Twitter, which helped Pichai move quickly up the corporate ladder and come closer to Google CEO.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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