Google's Pichai could shake up Android, but likely not at first

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) decision to reorganize itself and split out its businesses under a parent company called Alphabet and to put Sundar Pichai in place as the new CEO of the core Google business could have long-term implications for Google's Android mobile operating system, but they likely won't be felt for a while.

Pichai, who has been serving as a key executive as Google's senior vice president of products, previously led the Android, Chrome & Apps unit. While Google CEO Larry Page will serve as CEO of the new Alphabet holding company and Google co-founder Sergey Brin will become Alphabet's president, Pichai is going to be in charge of the core Google platform, which will include Android, search, advertising, Maps and YouTube.

Pichai, 43, joined Google in 2004 and made a name for himself in leading the development of Google's Chrome web browser. He has steadily risen through the ranks at the search giant through a low-key approach and a focus on diplomacy. He has said little in response to his new role but recently gave a hint about how a user-centric Google would help consumers, especially in mobile.

"I would love for my phone to scream if I am about to miss an important thing in my life, and never bother me if I'm doing something very important and the information coming in is less important than what I'm doing," Pichai said in a recent interview with The New York Times. "That's how I think about it. To me it's about serving users the right way, and as part of that, sometimes you need to disappear and get out of the way."

Android commanded 78 percent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2015, according to research firm IDC. Google got there through the leadership of Pichai and Andy Rubin, his predecessor as the head of Android.

Pichai never sought to steal the spotlight and pushed his agenda quietly, former colleague Keval Desai told Reuters. "He's a very, very strong opinionated person who has clear point of views about where product and initiative might go, but he's very good at letting other peoples' opinions emerge before he gives his own," Desai, now an investor, told Reuters.

Where Pichai might take Android is anyone's guess. However, IDC analyst John Jackson said that now that Page and Brin can focus more on "moonshot" ideas and projects like self-driving cars and drones for deliveries that are divorced from the core Google business, Pichai can bring a level of focus to Android and other core Google platforms that has been missing. 

Jackson said Google is now a family of assets that are supposed to mutually reinforce each other. Just as Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the Facebook family of apps--core Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger--Google now can do so as well, Jackson said.  

Pichai can focus on reducing Android fragmentation and potentially making it a "more "monolithic" platform over the next few years. He has a chance to be a "potentially visionary" person while still pushing Android into cars and the Internet of Things, Jackson said. Pichai will likely "favor some kind of action to lend a bit more order to that ecosystem."

For more:
- see this Google announcement
- see this SEC filing
- see this Re/code article
- see these two separate NYT articles
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

Related articles:
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Strategy Analytics: iOS, Android to power 96% of smartphones in 2015
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