An era at Google is ending. Andy Rubin, who led the company’s Android division in a fierce rivalry with Apple, is stepping aside to pursue other opportunities at the company, according to a blog post today by Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page. Sundar Pichai, a senior vice president in charge of the Chrome browser and operating system, will take his place.
Rubin’s accomplishments since he joined Google in 2004, when it acquired his startup, also called Android, are difficult to overstate. When Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, its runaway success threatened to give Steve Jobs an insurmountable lead in the race to dominate the next generation of mobile computing. Rubin’s approach mirrored Microsoft’s tactics in the early 90′s, when it overtook Apple to dominate the personal computer industry. His operating system for mobile phones was open and available for partners such as Samsung Electronics, HTC, and Motorola, which used it to create functional (if less visually striking) alternatives to the iPhone. The strategy resulted in a blaze of patent lawsuits, but it worked spectacularly. Last year, three out of every four smartphones around the world ran the software, according to IDC.