Google's Rubin steps down as Android chief

Move could hint at a combination of Chrome and Android

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) head of Android, Andy Rubin, is stepping down from his role at the company. The company's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps, Sundar Pichai, will take on Rubin's Android duties in addition to his existing work.

google andy rubin android

Andy Rubin

Google CEO Larry Page revealed the news in a blog post. "[It's] pretty extraordinary progress for a decade's work. 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." Rubin will stay on with Google in an unspecified role.

"Today, the success of Android combined with the strength of our management team, gives me the confidence to step away from Android and hand over the reins....As for me, I am an entrepreneur at heart and now is the right time for me to start a new chapter within Google," wrote Rubin in a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

Rubin helped co-found Android in 2003. In 2005, Google acquired Android and kept Rubin and other key team members on with the company. Page noted that through Rubin's leadership, Android has expanded to 60 manufacturers, with more than 750 million devices activated globally. In addition users have downloaded 25 billion apps from Google Play. According to comScore, Android currently ranks as the nation's top smartphone platform with 52.3 percent market share in January. According to research firm Gartner, Android made up 69.7 percent of all global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter, up from 51.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Rubin's resignation is especially noteworthy given its proximity to Google I/O, the Google Developer conference, which takes place in May. It also could indicate plans by Google to merge its Chrome OS operating system for laptops with its Android operating system for smartphones and tablets.

"The marketplace continues to change very rapidly. Blending Android and Chrome together seems to be the direction Google is going in. Why they're really separate is hard to really understand today," said Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based wireless and telecommunications industry analyst.

"Rubin has done what he was supposed to: created a platform that has now generated a large installed base. Pichai's job will be to monetize from that installed base," tweeted Carolina Milanesi, Research VP in Gartner's Consumer Devices team. "Going forward the synergy between Chrome & Android will also be critical--another reason why Pichai seems the right fit," she added.

"Over the last year or two we've realized the future is all under one roof and all under same operating system. They're all sharing data and are all interchangeable. That is the model that Apple has been going under for the last 10 years, that is the model Google is going under," added Kagan.

Pichai joined Google in 2004. In addition to working on Chrome, he guides projects like GMail, Drive and Docs. "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," wrote Page.

"Andy is more like Steve Jobs in his leadership style--top down," Keval Desai, a former Google project management director, told All Things Digital. "Sundar is more of a collaborative and low key leader, but very effective at achieving big results."

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal reported that Rubin and Pichai have vastly different leadership styles. The WSJ noted that Rubin would have disagreements with other Google divisions, in part because he wanted to continue running Android like a startup.

Pichai, on the other hand, say WSJ sources, is more relaxed and open to integrating other Google products with Android.

Last June, blogger Robert Scoble posted that Rubin would be quitting his post at Google in order to take up a position at startup CloudCar with some of his former co-workers from Danger Inc. Rubin tweeted that these rumors were false and he had "No plans to leave Google."

Google did not return a request for comment.

For more:
- see this Google blog post
- see this Verge story
- see this WSJ story (sub. req.) and this story
- see this AllThingsD story

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