Google’s New Android Chief Talks Challenges Of Keeping A Platform Consistent While Being Open

Posted: May 13, 2013 in GT, Mobile
Tags: , ,

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Google’s Sundar Pichai spoke to Wired in an
interview published today ahead of Google I/O this
week, describing what it’s like to be taking the helm
of both Android and Chrome going into the annual
conference. Pichai took over for Andy Rubin, who
stepped out of his role heading up Android back in March. These days, he says not much has changed around
his thinking about Chrome and Android, but he did
have some statements about the open nature of
Android that rang more sincere than most statements
from Google execs on that aspect of the business,
which is usually referred to as an impossibly good thing. Open Is Great, But… Pichai reiterated the company’s general love for the
“open” nature of Android, but he also brought up the
very real ways in which it limits Google’s ability to
provide a consistent and recognizable experience to
all users of its mobile OS. “Here’s the challenge: without changing the open
nature of Android, how do we help improve the whole
world’s end-user experience?” Pichai told Wired when
asked about the biggest challenge facing Android.
“For all your users, no matter where they are, or what
phone or tablet they are buying or what tablet they are buying.” It was a theme that Pichai came back to again and
again, when discussing how Facebook Home has
changed the OS experience at a basic level and what
Google felt about that. He said that Facebook Home
is “exciting,” while disagreeing diplomatically with it
from a central philosophical standpoint, explaining that he believes people aren’t at the center of the
experience in his mind. Once again in relation to
Facebook Home, Pichai talked about the challenges
of providing a universal experience to users. “We want to be a very, very open platform, but we
want a way by which end users are getting a good
experience overall,” he said in the interview. “We have
to figure out a way to rationalize things, and do it so
that it makes sense for users and developers. There’s
always a balance there.” Finally, Pichai talked about the different issue of
forking Android entirely, and discussed how Google
feels about that. “In general, we at Google would love everyone to work
on one version of Android, because I think it benefits
everyone better,” he told Wired. “But this is not the
kind of stuff we’re trying to prevent.” This is possibly the most frank anyone at Google has
been about how the company views these tangential
efforts. Google accepts them, because that’s the
nature of the open approach it took when it started out
with Android, an approach that helped it win over
carriers and OEMs looking to do more than just provide an interchangeable vehicle for another
company’s software and services. But Google is also
frustrated by them, in that they splinter its efforts,
ultimately resulting in Android fragmentation. Google And Samsung = Microsoft And Intel On the subject of the supposed Samsung/Google rift
that many in the media suspect may be developing,
Pichai echoed the company line and said that Google
isn’t concerned about Samsung’s prominence in the
overall Android ecosystem. He basically said that
Samsung has been instrumental in helping push the technology forward for both companies. Samsung’s relationship with Google is like that of
other “long stable structures” found throughout the
industry, Pichai said, pointing specifically to the
relationship between Intel and Microsoft. Microsoft
and HP would be another key example of a long-
prosperous combination that never destabilized because of one party craving too much influence over
the other. One could argue that the Android
ecosystem is a different beat, with Samsung having
much more power than any one partner that Microsoft
ever had, but that’s hard to quantify. Google I/O May Be Light On New Stuff Pichai also seemed keen to take the wind out of
people’s sails regarding what’s coming up at Google I/
O, which takes place this week Tuesday through
Friday in San Francisco. He said that the event will
be very much developer focused, especially since it’s
not timed around any major product announcements. “It’s not a time when we have much in the way of
launches of new products or a new operating system,”
he said to Wired. “Both on Android and Chrome, we’re
going to focus this I/O on all of the kinds of things
we’re doing for developers, so that they can write
better things. We will show how Google services are doing amazing things on top of these two platforms.” Rumors suggest we might see an updated Nexus 7
and possibly a Nexus 4 with new features like LTE
connectivity, but those could be considered minor
enough. Chrome And Android The biggest takeaway from Pichai’s talk with Wired
was that he clearly loves both of his children equally.
He resisted multiple attempts by Levy to pit the two
against one another, and to point one as unnecessary
in the face of the other. Pichai didn’t seem like a man
running two horses with the intent of picking the winning one late in the game; Chrome and Android
both came off as equally worthy pursuits that Google
intends to continue for different but equally valid
purposes. That could be why we’re hearing that
Android-powered notebooks are on the way, as well
as Chrome-powered tablets. It’ll be interesting to see if Pichai gives both equal
billing at the Google I/O keynote, too, which takes
place at 9 AM PT on Tuesday morning. We’ll be there
covering the action, so tune in to see how it shakes
out.

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