Photo: All Things D
Google just announced a big shake up.Andy Rubin, who founded and led Android, is stepping aside to work on other projects at Google.
In his place, Sundar Pichai will take the lead on Android.
Pichai already runs one of Google’s major projects — Chrome. Chrome is a web-based operating system that has largely focused on traditional computing platforms like the laptop.
Chrome was developed alongside Android at Google, but clearly Android has become the bigger success.
In the release announcing Rubin’s move, CEO Larry Page said Android is on 750 million devices. Chrome is just getting started on laptops. We’d be stunned if it was on more than a thousands of computers.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Google has two operating systems.
Even Pichai admits that his own mother asks him about it. Last June he tried to explain it by saying, Android is for phones and tablets, but Chrome for desktop users who want to work in the cloud.
This doesn’t necessarily make all that much sense, though, since the Chrome team is reportedly porting its operating system to work on tablets, just like Android. Its most recent product, a gorgeous Chrome laptop called the Pixel has a touch screen.
The best explanation we ever heard for why Google has Chrome and Android came from former Microsoft executive Ray Ozzie. He described Android has a bet on the past and Chrome as a bet on the future. Android, though mobile, has a lot of traditional operating system elements. Chrome, which is all web based, is a bet that you can operate entirely in the cloud.
With Pichai taking over, we expect the two operating systems will merge.
Pichai is highly regarded at Google. In 2011, Twitter tried to poach him to lead product. He stuck with Google after it paid him tens of millions in stock to stick around.
He takes on Android at an interesting time.
The hyper growth for Android is probably done. The major, earth changing features are probably set. Now it’s a matter of polish, tweaking, and gradually adding new innovations. It’s also about managing the next phase of growth, which will be slower.
Simultaneously, Samsung has pretty much consumed the Android brand. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it makes Google somewhat nervous.
And then there’s Google’s own aspirations with hardware. Pichai’s team just release a laptop, the Chrome Pixel. It’s reportedly interested in doing its own tablets.
At the same time, Google owns Motorola which is building phones.
If Pichai likes to make hardware, will he want to make his own phones? And will that be a conflict with Motorola?
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