Expect your Android phone to become more Chrome-like

Google recently erected a new Android statue made out of Chrome on its campus, as shown in this Jan. 2013 photo from employee Paul Wilcox. The company usually puts up new Android statues only when there's a new release. The statue seems to have been a precursor of more integration between Android and Chrome. Credit: Paul Wilcox

Changes could come to your Android device, with a new leader stepping in at the helm.

Google on Wednesday said that Andy Rubin, who brought Android to Google, will no longer run the mobile platform for the company. Sundar Pichai, who currently runs Chrome and Apps, will take over Android, in addition to his existing role.

The change at the top could indicate a new direction for Android.

Google essentially maintains two operating systems: Android for phones and tablets, and Chrome OS for laptops.

“What’s interesting is it looks as though it’s the Chrome vision that’s winning out,” said Ken Hyers, an analyst at Technology Business Research who follows mobile phones.

With Chrome’s leader now at the helm of Android, Google could be hoping to adopt more of Chrome’s features into the mobile OS. “What this tells us is they want to eventually make a more Chrome-like experience for Android,” he said.

It makes sense that Google would want to combine the two platforms into one, like some of its competitors. Microsoft, for instance, is moving toward a common platform for PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Even Apple is moving in that direction.

Plus, the mobile world is moving toward more cloud based apps and operating systems, he said. The new Firefox mobile OS, for instance, is a heavily web-based operating system.

“If you look at where the mobile industry is going, that’s what you’re going to see is more services and apps reside in the cloud,” Hyers said.

The model becomes increasingly important for companies like Google that see that smartphone growth in the future will come from developing markets. In those regions, phones must be low-cost so they can’t come with large storage or powerful processors, Hyers said. And in markets like India, network services are relatively inexpensive. The environment is best suited to low-cost phones that run apps in the cloud.

“I think that has to be where the vision is going” at Google, Hyers said.

The company didn’t say what it has in store for Rubin but it sounds like he’s sticking around. “Andy’s decided it’s time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google,” Larry Page, Google’s CEO, wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

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