Google's Pichai open to Android/Chrome merger, but not anytime soon

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Sundar Pichai, who heads both the company's Android efforts as well as its Chrome OS, said that users should not expect any kind of merger between the two in the near future. In an interview with Wired, his first since taking over as Android chief in March from Andy Rubin, Pichai also lowered expectations for the company's I/O developer conference this week, saying there will not be "much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system."

google Sundar Pichai

Pichai

Since taking over for Rubin, whose departure caught many in the industry off guard, there has been speculation that Google will look to merge Android, the world' most popular smartphone platform, with Chrome, which is designed for desktops and laptops. However, while Pichai said both are "large, open platforms, growing very fast" and that they are "part of friendly innovation and choice for both users and developers," he acknowledged there could be changes down the line.

"We embrace both and we are continuing to invest in both. So in the short run, nothing changes. In the long run, computing itself will dictate the changes," he said. "We're living through a pivotal moment. It's a world of multiple screens, smart displays, with tons of low-cost computing, with big sensors built into devices. At Google we ask how to bring together something seamless and beautiful and intuitive across all these screens. The picture may look different a year or two from now, but in the short term, we have Android and we have Chrome, and we are not changing course."

Pichai added: "We want to do the right things at each stage, for users and developers. We are trying to find commonalities. On the browser layer, we share a lot of stuff. We will increasingly do more things like that. And maybe there's a more synergistic answer down the line."

The Google executive touched on numerous hot topics, including Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Home (the social media giant's user interface for Android) and Google's relationship with Motorola. He said "Android was intended to be very customizable. And we welcome innovations. As for the specific product, my personal take on it is that time will tell. To Mark [Zuckerberg], people are the center of everything. I take a slightly different approach. I think life is multifaceted: people are a huge part of it, but not the center and be-all of everything."

As for Motorola, Pichai repeated Google's mantra that "for the purposes of the Android ecosystem, Motorola is [just another] partner." He also said the media plays up tension between Google and Samsung Electronics, which is the largest Android OEM and one of the few making money off of it. "Samsung is a great partner to work with," he said. "We work with them on pretty much almost all our important products."

Pichai also downplayed expectations for I/O, where some have rumored that Google might unveil a Motorola "X Phone," a high-end Android phone running the latest software. Pichai said the focus would be more on developers.

"It's going to be different," he said. "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."

So what can be expected at I/O? Google is expanding its Android gaming efforts, introducing a series of multiplayer and social features to rival Apple's Game Center platform for iOS, Android Police reported, and will add new multiplayer components that integrate with the Google+ social media platform. Existing Nexus-branded Google hardware will likely get software updates. Google may also talk more about tis Glass wearable computing initiative.

"You will see a continuation of what we have tried to do with Nexus and Chromebooks," Pichai said. "Any hardware projects we do will be to push the ecosystem forward."

For more:
- see this Wired article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this CNET article
- see this separate CNET article

Special Report: Google I/O 2013: Complete coverage

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Google's Schmidt calls Motorola's upcoming products 'phones +'
Google shakeup continues as Maps chief Huber shifts to new role
Google's Rubin steps down as Android chief

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