Google's Rubin: We're building a 'firewall' between Android and Motorola

BARCELONA, Spain--Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is building a "firewall" between itself and Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) to ease concerns that it will use the Android handset maker to dominate the platform's ecosystem once Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola closes, a senior Android executive said. 

Andy Rubin

Andy Rubin

Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president in charge of mobile, said he is "painfully aware" of the concerns, but stressed that Google has "literally built a firewall" between the Android team and Motorola. "I don't even know anything about their products, I haven't seen anything," he said at a roundtable discussion with reporters here Monday at the Mobile World Congress conference, according to The Verge. "They're going to continue building Motorola-branded devices and it's going to be the same team doing it."

Google's acquisition of Motorola has been approved by regulators but has not officially closed. Bloomberg reported last week that Google will replace Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha with Google advertising executive Dennis Woodside. Analysts and others have persistently raised concerns that Google may use Motorola to compete more directly with other Android licensees.

Rubin brushed aside those concerns and said that the open nature of Android makes it "physically difficult for me to advantage somebody." Rubin also noted that Motorola's relatively small size compared with other Android players meant that it would be difficult for Google to use Motorola to dominate other licensees. "Even if I was completely insane, it wouldn't make any sense for me to think that we could get Motorola to be 90-plus percent market share," given the huge field of Android vendors, he said. "It just isn't gonna happen."

On another front, Rubin said that Google intends to "double down" on Android tablets in 2012 in an effort to catch up with market leader Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which is widely expected to unveil the next version of its iPad early next month. Rubin said the 12 million Android tablets sold to date are "not insignificant, but less than I'd expect it to be if you really want to win," and said that "2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we're winning in that space." By comparison, Apple sold 15.43 million iPads in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone. Rubin said Google needs to educate developers about how to make their apps work for tablets, but noted that developers should only have to write their app once for Android smartphones and tablets at this point.

The comments dovetail with those made recently by a Samsung executive; Samsung is perhaps the world's biggest Android tablet maker and offers dozens of tablet skews. "Honestly, we're not doing very well in the tablet market," Hankil Yoon, a product strategy executive for Samsung, said here at the MWC show, according to a report from CNET.

In a separate blog post, Rubin gave an update on Android's growth. He said 850,000 new Android devices are activated each day, and that the total number of Android devices around the world is now more 300 million. That compares to 700,000 daily Android activations Rubin cited in December and 250 million total Android activations Google announced in January. 

For more:
- see this CNET article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this The Verge article
- see this separate The Verge article
- see this Google blog post

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