Rubin Pichai Shuffle: Fragmentation, Chrome, and Samsung

March 14, 2013

You know that Google has shuffled the deck one more time. Andy Rubin is off to do amazing things. Sundar Pichai will step in the role of techno-healer. A good place to start is the “Update from the CEO” in which we learn directly from Larry Page:

Sergey and I first heard about Android back in 2004, when Andy Rubin came to visit us at Google. He believed that aligning standards around an open-source operating system would drive innovation across the mobile industry. Most people thought he was nuts.

Obviously Messrs. Page and Brin did not find Mr. Rubin nuts. Then I read:

Going forward, Sundar Pichai will lead Android, in addition to his existing work with Chrome and Apps. Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use—and he loves a big bet.

The notion of Mr. Pichai is interesting to me. Now Google wants to bring some order to its controlled chaos approach to multiple operating systems, products, services, and partner relationships. Mr. Page acknowledges that the world has changed since Backrub in 1996:

Today we’re living in a new computing environment. People are really excited about technology and spending a lot of money on devices. This is driving faster adoption than we have ever seen before. The Nexus program—developed in conjunction with our partners Asus, HTC, LG and Samsung—has become a beacon of innovation for the industry, and services such as Google Now have the potential to really improve your life. We’re getting closer to a world where technology takes care of the hard work—discovery, organization, communication—so that you can get on with what makes you happiest… living and loving. It’s an exciting time to be at Google.

Several observations.

First, fragmentation. I understood that Google did not have a problem with fragmentation in the Android community.

Second, partners. I understood that Google got along famously with the various partners involved in Android. Samsung has been a great supporter and has demonstrated its ability to manufacture and ship mobiles devices people purchase. The Google Motorola tie up was, I assume, one of the controlled chaos decisions unrelated to manufacturing mobile devices, making money, and displaying Google’s management acumen.

Third, Chrome. The history of Chrome is changing. I thought I knew who cooked up the browser in Denmark. But I guess that information was incorrect. Chrome is much, much more. I am not exactly sure whether Chrome is a platform, a browser, an operating system, or a hybrid.

Now it is time to see what the shuffle will deliver. We know that females are not in top spots at Google. We know that Google faces a number of challenges on multiple fronts including partner relationships. We know that the shift to mobile from desktops is shifting the revenue flows. We know that Google type companies are getting ever closer to the good old days of Cornelius Vanderbilt and his peers. Search seems like it deserves a supporting role in the Google drama.

Exciting times not to be at Google.

Stephen E Arnold, March 14, 2013


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