Google shuffles executive ranks

Claire Cain Miller / New York Times News Service /

Google announced a change in its executive ranks Wednesday that could have broad implications for the mobile business.

Andy Rubin, who had been senior vice president in charge of Android, Google’s mobile operating system, has been replaced by Sundar Pichai. Pichai is the senior vice president of Chrome and will now oversee Android as well.

Google has been in a confusing position because it has two unrelated operating systems: Chrome and Android.

At first, Google said they were separate: Chrome was for computers and the Web, and Android was for touch-screen mobile devices and apps.

But the lines among devices have blurred, and the personnel change is a sign that Google now sees the need to somehow coordinate or merge the two operating systems.

Although Android has been wildly successful, with 750 million devices activated worldwide, computers running Chrome’s operating system have not.

At a media event to introduce the new Chromebook, Pichai drew less of a distinction between the two operating systems than Google executives had in the past.

“The way we think about it internally,” he said, “is as a user, you sign in to both these devices, you use search, Maps, Gmail” and other Google products. “All your Google services work seamlessly across devices.”

The company did not provide any details about how Chrome or Android might change under the new leadership.

Pichai has had a fast rise at Google and has experience developing hardware, a new area of focus for the company. In addition to Chrome and Android, he also oversees Google Apps, like Gmail and Drive, for consumers and businesses.

Google did not say why Rubin was replaced. Despite Android’s success, it is at a crossroads as device-making partners like Samsung and Amazon have increasingly become competitors.