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New Android chief downplays Chrome OS merger, hints at developer-focused I/O

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Sundar Pichai stock
Sundar Pichai stock

Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Chrome and Android, has given his first major interview since taking over Andy Rubin's position as Google's mobile chief. In an interview with Wired, Pichai speaks on the challenges of managing an open-source platform, the company's relationship with Samsung and Facebook, and what lies in store for Android at this week's Google I/O conference.

On Samsung, Pichai dismissed the oft-reported tension between the two companies, saying it "gets played up in the press a lot." He showed the interviewer his Galaxy S4 phone, adding that "Samsung is a great partner to work with." Pichai continued to be diplomatic in addressing partners and competitors, echoing Eric Schmidt's comments on Facebook's Home launcher by saying "we welcome innovations." Regarding Amazon's forking of Android with its Kindle Fire line, Pichai noted that Google would "love everyone to work on one version of Android, because I think it benefits everyone better," but explained that Google would not try to prevent any company from taking Amazon's route.

Synergy for Chrome and Android, not merger

Pichai's relatively-new position as head of Android represents the first time Google has had a single person head up its two disparate operating systems. The company has said on multiple occasions that the two OS will not be merged, and while Pichai doesn't disagree with that stance, he noted there's an increased focus on finding "commonalities" and sharing code between the platforms, adding that "maybe there’s a more synergistic answer down the line."

Expect a return to a developer-focused I/O

Regarding I/O, Google's annual developer conference, Pichai says this year's event won't be as consumer-focused as previous years'. He warned not to expect "much in the way of launches of new products or a new operating system," saying that "we’re going to focus this I/O on all of the kinds of things we’re doing for developers." That's not to say there won't be any new Google-branded hardware on show, but Pichai reiterated that "any hardware projects we do will be to push the ecosystem forward" — a "continuation of what we have tried to do with Nexus and Chromebooks." The full interview is available at Wired.