While Google Android is the world's most used smartphone platform, some critics argue that Android apps often carry inferior interfaces to their iPhone equivalents or counterparts. And fragmentation is yet another thorny issue for Android, with reports that only 25 percent of active Android devices in the wild are running Google's latest release Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean". All this adds up to a headache for developers.
No Serving of Key Lime Pie This Month
And it's a headache new Android chief Sundar Pichai, 40, looks to address at his company's annual developers conference Google I/O 2013, which will be held May 15-17 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif.
While some were hoping that Google would release Android 5.0 ("Key Lime Pie") at the event, Mr. Pichai's comments in a recent interview with Wired seemingly confirm that the event will instead focus on improving the company's relationship with its app makers -- or to put it as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would "DEVELOPERS, developers, developers!"
He says the challenge for his company is: "without changing the open nature of Android, how do we help improve the whole world’s end-user experience? For all your users, no matter where they are, or what phone or tablet they are buying or what tablet they are buying."
As for I/O, he says it will be much different from last year's event that saw the launch of Jelly Bean. He remarks:
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.
In other words, Google is giving its OEM and carrier partners a breather to catch up on OS updates. He leaves the door a bit open for I/O hardware announcements in a later comment, saying:
You will see a continuation of what we have tried to do with Nexus and Chromebooks. Any hardware projects we do will be to push the ecosystem forward.
Google is Cool With Samsung, Facebook Home, and Fire OS
In terms of the controversy about Google being "nervous" about partner Samsung size, he argues that issue is overstated, pointing out he owns a Samsung Galaxy S IV as his go-to device. He comments, "Samsung is a great partner to work with."
He also says he has no gripes about Amazon.com whose "Fire" tablets took Google's open source Linux distribution and took it in a different direction not in Google's main line, or Facebook.com "people-centric" reskin of Android "Home". He opines:
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.
In general, we at Google would love everyone to work on one version of Android, because I think it benefits everyone better. But this is not the kind of stuff we’re trying to prevent. Our focus is not on Facebook Home or Kindle Fire.
Perhaps most interesting, he admits that the unexpected step-down of Andy Rubin (who remains at Google, but in different roles) came as a surprise even to him. He reveals, "I got to know only towards the end of the process of Andy deciding to step back. It played out in a rapid time fashion over the couple weeks prior to the actual announcement. I am passionate about computing and so to me, it was very exciting to be in a position where I could make an impact on that scale."
Now amid ongoing executive shuffling it's up to his new team to steer Android; needless to say a lot of eyes will be on him come May 15.