The man who is synonymous with Android has been replaced by the guy who is synonymous with Chrome.
In a shakeup Google CEO Larry Page announced Wednesday, Andy Rubin — who has led Android from the start and helped make it the most widely used mobile OS — is moving on to … well, that isn’t clear. Taking his place is Sundar Pichai, the senior vice president in charge of the Chrome browser and OS. Pichai will continue running all things Chrome as well. Although it remains to be seen just what Rubin will be doing, it appears he’s staying at Google.
“Having exceeded even the crazy ambitious goals we dreamed of for Android — and with a really strong leadership team in place — Andy’s decided it’s time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google,” Page wrote in his announcement. “Andy, more moonshots please!”
One possibility is Rubin will go to Google X, the skunkworks division specifically charged with making crazy, far-out concepts like autonomous vehicles and Google Glass reality. Page’s mentioning moonshots hints at such a move, and it makes sense to have Rubin lead Google’s charge toward the next great computing platform — wearable technology.
Glass is the company’s first foray into wearables, and if anyone has proven he can build a computing platform, it’s Rubin. He co-founded Android Inc. in 2003, after selling Danger Inc. (the company that invented the T-Mobile Sidekick smartphone) to Microsoft. He took Android to Google in 2004 and sold it on backing his vision for mobile computing. He’s been with Google ever since, presiding over Android’s rise to the top of the worldwide mobile OS pecking order. Page noted in today’s announcement that Android has been activated on more than 750 million devices worldwide and more than 25 billion apps have been downloaded from Google Play.
Rubin has also overseen the development of Google’s Nexus phones and tablets into a full-fledged consumer brand with the release of last year’s Nexus 4 built by LG, Nexus 7 from Asus and Nexus 10 by Samsung. Matias Duarte has worked under Rubin, overseeing Android hardware and software design, after having worked with him at Danger Inc.
Pichai is a rising star at Google. Chrome has become the most widely used web browser, and Chrome OS is on the rise. He also delivered Google’s first self-made hardware, the gorgeous Chromebook Pixel, product into retail, and, thanks to Samsung’s $250 Chromebook, Chrome OS laptops have started selling in big numbers. Since the latest Samsung Chromebook made its debut, it has sold out on Google Play and in Best Buy stores. It’s also been the best-selling laptop on Amazon for more than 140 days.
In his new role at Google, Pichai is being asked to continue that success while also taking on Rubin’s role at Android. This isn’t a small task. For the last few years, Google has pushed two different strategies — Android and Chrome OS — and each is vying to define our computing future. When asked last month if he ever saw Android and Chrome OS converging to become one software platform, Pichai said that the two are the execution of two different philosophies on personal computing.
“We have two viewpoints here and we are doing both,” he said. “This may enable the applications to even look the same across platforms and users don’t even care about the underlying technology.”
Pichai now runs both, and both platforms run on touchscreen devices. If Google wants to bring Android and Chrome OS into greater alignment, there’s no person better equipped to do this than Pichai — aside from Rubin, of course.