New Android boss Sundar Pichai recently talked with Wired about the future of the platform, and how he plans to keep it separate from Chrome even though he's knee-deep in both. He also talked a little bit about Facebook Home, and how Android was intended to be customizable to the point that Facebook's launcher design is possible. But that could change later on down the road.
"As for the specific product, my personal take on it is that time will tell," he said. "To Mark [Zuckerberg], people are the center of everything. I take a slightly different approach. I think life is multifaceted: people are a huge part of it, but not the center and be-all of everything."
Wired then asked about rumors that Google may block a Facebook Home-style approach in a future release. Pichai said that Google wants Android to be a very open platform, but the company also wants users to have a good experience overall. Designs need to make sense for both the user and developer. There’s always a balance, he said, and it’s no different from the kind of decisions that Facebook has to make about its own platform.
"Users get to decide what apps and what choices they want," he told Wired. "Some users really want this. We don’t want to get in the way of that. [But] in the end, we have to provide a consistent experience. As part of that, with every release of Android, we do go through changes. So we may make changes over time. But if this is what users want, I think Facebook will be able to do it. We want it to be possible for users to get what they want."
As for the forked version of Android like what's used on the Kindle Fire tablets, he admitted that Google would rather everyone use one version of Android because it benefits everyone better. But under the rules of the license, Amazon can alter the platform all it wants. He also shot down any hints of rivalry with Samsung by showing Wired his Galaxy S4 smartphone, saying that Samsung is a great company and that they work closely together on a large number of products.
The interview goes on to cover a load of topics including the eye-tracking project, the future of Google-branded hardware, the performance of Web apps, money generated from Android in comparison to the money Apple makes from iOS devices, and Mozilla's Firefox OS. They also briefly cover the Android update process.
"We are thinking about how to make Android handle updates better," he said. "We see ways we can do this. It’s early days. We’re talking with our partners and working our way through it. We need time to figure out the mechanics, but it’s definitely an area of focus for me and for the team."
And what about Google I/O this week? There are reports that we'll see a ton of new devices like the Motorola XFON, new 7-inch and 10-inch second-gen Nexus tablets, Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean", Android-based notebooks and more. There's speculation the keynote itself was stretched to three hours in order to cram all the announcements into one presentation.
"It’s going to be different," he said. "It’s not a time when we have much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system. Both on Android and Chrome, we’re going to focus this I/O on all of the kinds of things we’re doing for developers, so that they can write better things. We will show how Google services are doing amazing things on top of these two platforms."