Head of Android Talks The Open OS, Facebook And Samsung
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Google´s developer conference Google I/O kicks off this week, allowing developers from all over the globe to learn about the latest from Android, Chrome and other Google products.
It will also mark the first I/O with Sundar Pichai at the helm of Android. Though he´s played critical roles at Google and Google I/O for years, he´s now the man in charge of the world´s most popular mobile operating system. His predecessor, Andy Rubin, stepped down from his post in March to pursue more “moonshots” at Google.
As Rubin stepped down, Google CEO Larry Page said Pichai would be “doubling down on Android,” a quote which many took to imply a merger between Google´s Chrome OS and Android.
In his first interview since taking the position, Pichai told Wired not to expect a merger announcement at this year´s I/O, or many product announcements for that matter. According to Pichai, this year will be dedicated to the developers who build things to run on Google´s operating systems.
Pichai also talked about the trials of keeping an “open” operating system while maintaining consistency.
When asked about this year´s conference, Pichai told Wired´s Steven Levy: “It´s going to be different. It´s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system. 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.”
During last year´s Google I/O, Google Glass was famously shown off as it was worn by parachuters, then rope climbers, then extreme bicyclists before being delivered to the stage. Pichai appears to be tempering everyone´s hopes for another large scale-display like the one witnessed last year.
Levy also asked Pichai about Facebook and Samsung, two companies which have used Android´s openness to their advantage to separate themselves from Google.
“Here´s the challenge: without changing the open nature of Android, how do we help improve the whole world´s end-user experience,” asked Pichai in his interview.
“We want to be a very, very open platform, but we want a way by which end users are getting a good experience overall. 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.”
In particular, Facebook´s Home suite of apps has taken advantage of Android´s openness by allowing users to download the Home app and bypass much of Android´s home screen and widget options. Pichai said he was excited that Facebook thought of Android when building these apps, but he spoke carefully when it came to his opinions about the longevity of Home and it´s “people first” approach to a mobile OS.
“I think life is multifaceted: people are a huge part of it, but not the center and be-all of everything,” said Pichai.
Android´s openness has also allowed Samsung to become the dominant player it is today, running a two-player race between themselves and Apple. Earlier reports hinted that Google was getting worried about Samsung´s dominance. During their circus-show Galaxy S4 unveiling, the Korean phone maker didn´t mention Android at all, detailing only the Samsung-exclusive features of the phone.
“I realize this gets played up in the press a lot,” said Pichai.
“Look, Samsung plays a critical role in helping Android be successful. To ship great experiences, you need hardware and software together. The relationship is very strong on a day-to-day basis and on a tactical basis. So I´m not that concerned.”