Andy Rubin Collage

AH Primetime: The Evolution of Android Without Andy Rubin

November 17, 2013 - Written By Cory McNutt

Android was Andy Rubin’s baby, there is no arguing that he gave birth to what is now the most popular operating system in the world.  If this is the true case, and it is, then why was he so seemingly, abruptly, removed from his position as head of Google’s Android and the reins were taken over by Sundar Pichai, head of Google’s Chrome division.  In a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article they said:

Mr. Page said the decision was Mr. Rubin’s own and that the executive had “exceeded even the crazy ambitious goals we dreamed of for Android” and left “a really strong leadership team in place.”

Mr. Rubin said he was “an entrepreneur at heart and now is the right time for me to start a new chapter within Google.”

How will Google’s Android continue with Rubin no longer guiding it along – could it be even a better operating system without Page, described by the WSJ:

Mr. Rubin has a reputation as a fierce competitor who sometimes clashed with others regarding the Google services that would appear on Android, said people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Rubin tried to run the Android unit like a startup, keeping it somewhat independent from the rest of Google and purposely keeping its headcount low, said people familiar with the matter. That sometimes led to conflicts with other Google units that tried to get their products to be preinstalled on Android devices or be more tightly integrated with the software, these people said.


But he also is a widely admired innovator and likes to operate independently, sometimes preferring to hold meetings away from Google headquarters, say several people who have met with him. Steve Jobs hated him, and according to Fred Vogelstein’s book, “Dogfight: How Apple And Google Went To War And Started a Revolution,” Jobs told friends that Rubin was a “big, arrogant f**k.” When Jobs had a meeting with Google’s Page, Eustace, and Rubin, Vogelstein said:

It got incredibly personal,” says one Apple executive who was briefed by Jobs on the meeting. “Jobs said that Rubin was steamed, telling him his position was anti-innovation. And this is where Steve was demeaning to Andy, saying Andy was trying to be like him, look like him, have the same haircut, the same glasses, the same style.

Maybe Steve Jobs was so incensed because he could not stand looking in the mirror, staring back at the reflection of seeing what he, himself, was really like. That was the first step in the Apple vs Android conflict, and it continues today in the courts with Apple continually suing somebody over their iPhone and its design.

If Google and Android are to be everything that it can be, then there needed to be more co-operation between Google and Android, as well as more integration of all that Google has to offer – this is where Sundar Pichai steps in. He is the embodiment of co-operation and, as the WSJ said:

Mr. Pichai is likely to be more accommodating and willing to integrate Android with more Google services, these people said.



That is exactly what Google and Android needs at this point to grow in what Larry Page had envisioned it to be. Some people are radical thinkers, like Rubin, idea guys that can come up with a big idea, but are not always the best person to implement it, once created. Others, like Page, see the big picture and can envision the future and how to expand, integrate, and make it work better as a whole, rather than the parts. The others, like Pichai, can orchestrate between the two extremes to make things happen – brilliant, firm, but like the perfect parent that knows when to say yes or no and nurture the project to fruition.

If Rubin is as smart as they say, and he did willing step aside, then the man knows both his strengths and limitations, and has moved on to Google’s X lab – home to the robotically driven automobiles and futuristic ideas where Rubin should flourish.   Page said on their blog:

Andy, more moonshots please!

And in April, following Rubin’s new job he said: The best people often want to work on the biggest bets and there’s not much competition, because no one else is crazy enough to try,” Page said in April following Rubin’s change in responsibilities.

Android Kit Kat 1 4.4

Android (and Google) should have a great future together under the co-operative guidance of Page and Pichai as Google and Android try to work together to bring us a complete Google ecosystem, and Android 4.4 KitKat is the first release that was less influenced by Rubin and more by Pichai. It starts to show more Google-like qualities – such as the Google Search feature as part of the Phone Dialer, Google Voice, Google Cloud Print, Google Hangouts, and more. In addition, Android 4.4 KitKat made many internal improvements that are below the surface, but should offer all Android users and developers a much better operating system over its predecessor, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.


Things will get even better as the next chapter of Android is released – suddenly, Larry Page made a tough, but necessary decision, and Andy Rubin was smart enough to allow his “baby” to be further developed by its new “parents.” Let us know in the comments or on Google+ if you think the Android system will flourish or crash with Rubin’s departure.