There has always been a somewhat awkward relationship between Google’s Chrome OS (PC) and Android OS (mobile). Many people have remarked about it. Today that tension was potentially resolved.
Google CEO Larry Page announced that Android founder and Google Mobile chieftan Andy Rubin was transitioning to another role at the company. In his place SVP Sundar Pichai (who was once unsuccessfully recruited by Twitter) will take over leadership of the Android team. Pichai is currently responsible for Chrome OS and the two groups will be under his combined command.
Here’s what Page said about him in a blog post announcing the change:
Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use—and he loves a big bet. Take Chrome, for example. In 2008, people asked whether the world really needed another browser. Today Chrome has hundreds of millions of happy users and is growing fast thanks to its speed, simplicity and security. 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.
There’s a clear logic here and the move makes sense. But my instincts tell me that all may not go as smoothly as that logic suggests.
By all measures Android is flying high: “60 manufacturers; more than 750 million devices have been activated globally; and 25 billion apps have now been downloaded from Google Play.” Yet device activations have slowed somewhat and Samsung has all but taken control of Android handset (and perhaps eventually tablet) sales. Samsung Galaxy devices represents an increasingly large share of all Android sales.
Windows Phone is unlikely to challenge Android, nor is BlackBerry — for at least the foreseeable future, if ever. Android can coast for some time (which is clearly not happening) and the platform would continue to dominate globally. By some estimates Android is on 80% or more of Chinese smartphones.
If indeed this leadership change is a precursor to OS consolidation we may see some technical challenges a la Windows as a unified operating system across devices. But then again, but for Apple (and partner Samsung), Google really has no competitive threats to its global-mobile dominance on the horizon.