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Google's Android Head Steps Down

Andy Rubin, although leaving his current position, is still staying with the company.

The Android operating system world felt a tremor today when its leader stepped down.

Andy Rubin, cofounder of Android Inc. and a senior vice president at Google for mobile and digital content, who oversaw Android development at Google, will be moving off those responsibilities. Instead, it appears that Rubin will join some unspecified project at the company. Meanwhile, Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Google Chrome and Google Apps, "will lead Android," according to Google CEO Larry Page, in a blog post.

"Andy's decided it's time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google. Andy, more moonshots please!," Page wrote.

The "moonshots" reference appears to be a reference to Google X, which is the company's effort devoted to solving big challenges. Google X projects have included such things as glasses with Web access (known as "Google Glass") or Google's self-driving car project. According to Page's formulation, as described by Wired, taking on the big projects that represent an improvement ten times over the competition is actually easier to do because people will rise to the challenge. It's inspiring, like carrying out a team effort to send a person to the moon.

Before working at Android Inc. and joining Google, Rubin was the cofounder of Danger Inc., a wireless company that Microsoft acquired in April 2008. Troubles with Microsoft's servers caused Microsoft and T-Mobile to end the Danger service for Sidekick mobile device users in March 2011.

Pichai has been the lead on Google's Chrome OS efforts, which is Google's Web-based operating system for laptops. He will continue working "with Chrome and Apps," in addition to heading the Android efforts at Google, according to Page.

Page described Android as "the most used mobile operating system in the world." He cited 60 manufacturers using Android, and claimed that "more than 750 million devices have been activated globally."

Data from research and consulting firm Gartner show Android to be the top OS in terms of smartphones sales. Sales of Android smartphones led at 69.7 percent of the market, according to a fourth-quarter 2012 Gartner Market Share Analysis report. Competitors were way behind. Apple iOS sales placed second at 20.9 percent. Third place was contested by Research in Motion sales at 3.5 percent and Microsoft mobile OS sales at 3.0 percent.

Microsoft and Apple have both used litigation, or the threat of litigation, to extract royalty payments from device makers using Android, which is an open source Linux variant. Most of the litigation has been about alleged intellectual property violations associated with various software patents.

In reaction, Google purchased Motorola Mobility in May to bolster its intellectual property holdings. Google actually distributes Android royalty free to equipment manufacturers, but it hasn't provided legal indemnity for its use.

The business model for Google in fostering a mobile operating system has to do more with its search-advertising monetization. The more mobile users there are, the more search-ad revenues can be generated for Google.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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