Google's Pichai: It doesn't matter much to us that Samsung dominates Android

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Sundar Pichai, chief of both the company's Android efforts as well as its Chrome OS, downplayed the dominance of Samsung Electronics in the Android market, and said that most people choose Android because of Google services, not because of one manufacturer or another.

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai

Speaking Thursday at AllThingsD's D11 conference, Pichai also announced a version of the HTC One with stock Android software and said that he is looking forward to Google unit Motorola Mobility's forthcoming "Moto X" smartphone.

However, Pichai was drawn into a lengthy discussion about Google's relationship with Samsung, which has grown over the last several years into not only the world's largest handset and smartphone maker by volume but the dominant Android player. Various analyst firms have noted that Samsung takes the lion's share of Android sales and profit.

"They are a very close partner. We enjoy a very close working relationship," Pichai said of Samsung. "We actually owe a lot of success in Android to what they've done, the scale at which they have played in the mobile space. I think it's also fair to say Samsung has been hugely successful in mobile. A vast majority of their phones, almost all of the phones they ship, are based on Android. So today I see a pretty symbiotic relationship, and we intend to keep it that way." Pichai noted that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel were close collaborators in the PC industry for many years and remain so. 

Pichai also pushed back against the notion that Samsung is the only Android OEM gaining market share. "It is a pretty vibrant ecosystem," he said. "I don't think it's entirely true than no one else other than Samsung is gaining share." He noted that there are many smaller players in China or India who are gaining share. 

However, journalist Walt Mossberg pressed Pichai on the fact that there are not currently two or three dominant Android OEMs. "I'm going to say this today, and I don't think people will fully believe me, I don't think it actually matters much for us," Pichai said. He said the reason why is that most people adopt Android because of the Google cloud services that are built on top of Android, including search, maps and YouTube. He said that is what makes Android successful.

"To me, getting these services at scale and bringing it together on top of Android is where the innovation lies. And I think if you do it well, people will continue to use it. if you don't do it well, we will lose with Android. I think the structure of a Samsung as 'X percent share' or not has some role to us, but we aren't overly concerned about that. I completely see a path by which we can very successful and so is Samsung. I don't see it as a zero-sum game because the industry is exploding in terms of where computing is going."

On Wednesday evening at the conference Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside said that the company will release a flagship smartphone this summer called the Moto X, which may be the actual name of the long-rumored "X Phone." The Moto X will be part of a series of new smartphones meant to reinvigorate the brand, he said.

"Dennis Woodside jokes it's harder to deal with Android from inside Google than outside," Pichai said, according to AllThingsD. "I'm excited about Moto X, from an Android standpoint we're excited about them, but no differently than we are about Samsung."

Pichai also said Google will continue its "Nexus" lead device program, though he did not say when new Nexus devices will be coming out. "The goal with Nexus was to push forward hardware with partners," he said. "That will continue as well."

Finally, Pichai announced that a version of the HTC One, HTC's flagship Android smartphone on which it is pinning a sales turnaround, will be available with stock Android 4.2.2 software, with subsequent software updates provided by Google. The device, with 32 GB of memory, will be available starting June 26 for $599 in the Google Play store unlocked, with LTE service available from AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). Google is also going to start selling a 16 GB Samsung Galaxy S4 with pure Android software under a similar arrangement starting June 26 for $649.

For more:
- see this AllThingsD video
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this separate AllThingsD article
- see this The Verge article
- see this HTC post
- see this separate The Verge article

Related Articles:
Motorola to release flagship 'Moto X' smartphone this summer, with others to follow
Google intros new Android gaming and streaming music services, will offer Nexus-style Galaxy S4
Google's Pichai open to Android/Chrome merger, but not anytime soon
Google's Schmidt calls Motorola's upcoming products 'phones +'
Google's Rubin steps down as Android chief
Samsung exec disputes notion of tension with Google over Android

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