As Google looks to broaden the reach and appeal of its Android platform, Andy Rubin must focus on eliminating potential fragmentation within the Android ecosystem as well as dealing with the challenges of managing Google's Web store for smartphones.
So far Rubin has had great success evangelizing the virtues of Android as a free, open-source platform. A little more than a year ago, there was only one Android phone in the market. Today Google says there are more than 20. In early January, Rubin lead Google's next step in the Android evolution with the launch of the Nexus One, the HTC-made device that Google is selling in its Web store and pairing with plans from its carrier partners. T-Mobile USA is the first carrier offering the Nexus One--but others, including Verizon Wireless, are expected to follow.
Although Rubin has maintained that Google's primary business is advertising, he admits that this direct-to-consumer model is an important new direction for the firm. Rubin believes that by selling the device online, Google may be able to eventually lower the cost of devices and service plans by not having to invest in outside marketing and merchandising.
Among Rubin's significant challenges: He has to maintain Google's new direct-to-consumer push while not interfering with the existing retail distribution channels of the firm's carrier and OEM partners. That's a difficult line to toe, and many fear that by creating a store for select Android "superphones" that is separate from normal retail distribution channels, Google is alienating its Android licensees.
There is also the matter of making sure that as many phones as possible get updated to the latest Android software, something that is complicated by customizations like HTC's Sense UI. Rubin also must deal with consumers' complaints about the Android Market, and developer's activities within the Android ecosystem.
Rubin experienced phenomenal success with Android in 2009. Can he keep Android's momentum strong in 2010?