Android chief Andy Rubin will step down

Rubin, a co-founder of Android, will be replaced by Chrome chief Sundar Pichai. 

Sundar Pichai, formerly the senior vice president of Google Chrome, speaks during Google I/O Conference in San Francisco, Calif., in this 2012 file photo. Google has appointed Mr. Pichai as the chief of its Android division, replacing Andy Rubin as the overseer of a platform that in just a few years has become the world's most-used mobile software.

Android co-founder Andy Rubin has decided to "hand over the reins" of the mobile OS to Chrome chief Sundar Pichai, Google announced today. 

Mr. Pichai is currently tasked with Chrome and a range of Chrome OS products at Google; his next job will be to oversee the most-used mobile operating system in the world. Mr. Rubin, meanwhile, will "start a new chapter at Google," Google CEO Larry Page wrote on the company blog. Exactly what Rubin will do next is unclear, although there's some speculation that he could go to the top-secret Google X Lab

"Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use – and he loves a big bet," Mr. Page wrote in the post. "Take Chrome, for example. In 2008, people asked whether the world really needed another browser. Today Chrome has hundreds of millions of happy users and is growing fast thanks to its speed, simplicity and security."

Page added that he expected Pichai to "double down" on Android in coming months. 

So what's behind Rubin's departure? Well, over at Wired, Ryan Tate says that it has a lot to do with a "tightening" of "company focus" – the same thing that may have driven Marissa Mayer to Yahoo. Here's Tate: 

Key to both moves, of course, is Google CEO Larry Page, who has sought to put more wood behind fewer arrows at Google, a company once famous for its willingness to nurture experimental employee passion-projects – as well as for its failure to quickly combat Facebook and the threat social networking posed to Google’s business model. Page famously froze Mayer out of his "L Team" inner circle after he became CEO two years ago and began diverting more resources into the Google+ social networking initiative. It seems to some people at Google that the same is now happening to Rubin. 

Tate goes on to point out that Pichai, Rubin's replacement, is rumored to be tighter with Page than Rubin ever was. 

Android, which was first launched in 2008, has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. According to Google, a whopping 750 million Android devices have been activated globally; those devices have been used to download more than 25 billion apps from the Google Play store. Those big numbers have a lot to do with the open-source nature of Android: While iOS, Android's biggest competitor, works only on Apple devices, 60 manufacturers around the world use a form of the Android operating system. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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