In a surprise, Google shook up the executive leadership running Android last week.
Android founder Andy Rubin is out, moving to other projects in Google, while Chrome leader Sundar Pichai is now in charge.
Android is Google’s mobile software. Chrome is Google’s desktop software. Now Pichai runs both.
Pichai has a tough act to follow. Under Rubin, Android went from being a funky open source project to the world’s biggest mobile operating system with 70 per cent of the market, according to research firm Gartner.
In the simplest of terms, Pichai’s main job is to not screw things up. But, in a market as dynamic and quickly evolving as the mobile market, it’s not so easy to simply not screw up.
Pichai has to confront a bunch of issues gnawing at Android as well as figure out what’s next.
We’re going to walk through all the big issues we see with Android as Pichai takes the reins.
This has become one of the biggest cliches in the mobile space, but it doesn't mean it's not true: Samsung is eating the Android brand alive. At its last launch event Samsung didn't mention Google once. And why would it? Samsung's smartphone business is more profitable than all of Google.
Right now, Samsung is a friend. It could quickly turn into a frenemy, and then a foe. Pichai needs to make a decision about what he thinks of Samsung and how to handle it from here on in.
Google has released one Nexus phone a year. And last year it did two Nexus tablets. Pichai leads Chrome, which just made its own laptop. Does he want to go deeper with hardware? Or does he want to ease back and let Motorola do Google's hardware? If he wants to do Google hardware, how does it square with Motorola, or Samsung for that matter?
Google says Android is profitable. It's never been very specific about what that means, but we sense it's not making a lot of money as a standalone product. It's on 750 million devices around the world. At some point, Android should be making big profits for Google. Pichai has to figure it out.
Android employees work their tails off to build the best possible operating system. But, most Android users aren't on the latest OS build. Just 18% of Android users are on Jelly Bean, which came out last year.
Android users don't get the new OS because carriers and phone makers have to approve the changes. So, if a new version of Android comes out, Samsung has to make all of its software work with the new version of Android. Then it has to submit that to AT&T, Verizon, etc. and get their approval before sending it to users.
This means Android users are missing out on a lot of features, which means when it's time to get a new phone, they might bounce to a rival because they don't even realise how great their Android phone really is. It's also a big mess for developers.
Despite Google's big market share, developers still favour Android. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Loren Brichter and called him the 'high priest of app design.' He doesn't make Android apps. When Twitter launched Vine, its new video service, it went with iOS first.
Developers make more money on iOS, which is why they favour it over Android. It's got less of a fragmentation issue. iOS apps also see higher engagement. Pichai needs to fix all of this and make Android the first (and occasionally only) stop for developers.
Android has boatloads of market share, but not much as much usage. Pichai needs to get people using apps and surfing the web with their Android phones. The theory right now is that Android phones are given away and people that get them don't realise how powerful they are. Pichai needs to get people using Android phones to attract developers and to generate more revenue for Google services.
After an insane period of growth, Android is finally starting to cool down. The growth rate appears to be levelling. In this chart you can see that daily activations slowed in the last few months. It was inevitable. Pichai needs to figure out how to deal with Android's slowing growth and what's next for the platform.
Google won the market share battle in smartphones. Three years after Apple released the iPad, it's still behind Apple. Pichai needs to figure out how to make Android tablets a bigger deal.
Amazon forked Android and is building its own empire of low-priced tablets. It may also do its own phone. We're not sure what, if anything, Pichai can do about this, but he better not sleep on Amazon.
The wonderful thing about Android is that it is open and anyone can take the code and build an OS. The terrible thing about Android is that it is open and anyone can take the code, build an OS, and cut out Google apps and services. As the core of Android gets more and more powerful, manufacturers are going to be inclined to do their own version of Android that cuts out Google. Pichai can't let this happen.
If there's a good reason for Google to have a Chrome operating system and an Android operating system, we haven't heard it yet. Pichai needs to decide if there's a good reason. If there is, he should articulate it. If not, he should combine the best of both worlds.
This comes from Dan Frommer of SplatF. Basically, Android is good and all, but it's super conventional. Where are the crazy, Google-y ideas? Why aren't phones 100 per cent free yet? Why is Google still relying on carriers? Hey, Sundar, let's try something crazy!
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.