All About Android 295: Hiroshi Lockheimer talks Android, Pixel, and Chrome

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Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP of Android, Chrome OS, and Google Play, made an appearance on this week's All About Android show to chat about Android, Pixel, Android partners, and Chrome.

On Pixel, Lockheimer says, "It's been great to see the positive reviews and it's great to see people using it. I feel like from my perspective, we can't lose because Pixel is a great phone. The Galaxy S7, you know, is a great phone. The OnePlus is a great phone. There's a lot of great Android devices out there now that it just feels like life's great." With the Pixel, Google seems to be competing more with their Android partners but Lockheimer was quick to reiterate that Rick Osterloh's team (which makes the Pixel) is separate and they work with their internal team just as they with other OEM's like Samsung and LG. He also mentions that Android partners should already be used to Google making a devices but did give them a heads up that this year it's Pixel not Nexus. For the Pixel, the target seems to be users on other platforms, specifically calling out the Pixel marketing message to iPhone users but Lockheimer mentions that he's noticed articles that iOS users are thinking of switching to Android, not necessarily Pixel.

On building Android and the new Pixel and previous Nexus phones, they spend about 12 months - once the device is out, they start working on the next one. The device is important for Android because Lockheimer mentions, "we don't like to build Android - the platform - in the abstract. We always like to do it in the context of a specific device so that we understand how the operating system performs in real life." He added, "we want to have a device that we can use to really test out the latest features."

On the OS update situation, is it frustating to Lockheimer that devices aren't getting updated as fast as they should be? "Absolutely", he replied. To help Android is getting changes that will make it easier for devices to be updated - less work for OEMs and chipset manufacturers. Alongside technical changes, "evangelism" with manufacturers and carrier operators on why these updates are important is being done. Overall, Lockheimer understands that updates are hard and not practical because of the scale of Android.

On goals for Android, Lockheimer touts the openness of Android: "The goal of Android has been to create this platform that is super, super flexible and - we use the word open a lot, but it really is that word. It's Open Source. The policies around it are very open. We have a very liberal license - Apache 2.0 - that makes it possible for manufacturers to really make it their own while maintaining compatibility because that's what they wanted, right? They wanted a sort of a platform where there could be apps, a thriving app ecosystem, but still be different from their competitors, which is a natural thing." Be together, not the same.

He used the example of Google Maps for Mobile in the early days of mobile applications, going back to J2ME, BREW, and other operating systems of that era. "That app team back in 2006 or 2005, they had literally 300 versions or over 300 versions of that one app just to support all the different platforms out there and they ended spending most of their time porting from one platform to another rather than focusing on innovations and new functionalities. And that's where Android came from." Android was really about how do we solve that problem? As an app developer, as Google as an app developer - how can we solve that problem so that there could be a diverse set of devices out there but with a common app platform and the result is Android. So it's really been all about scale but a consistent ecosystem and platform - we call that Google Play. And having that sort of flywheel going."

On the topic of merging Android and Chrome OS, we'll see more pieces of each platform making their way to the other. "There's no point in merging them, they're both successful. We just want to make sure both sides benefit from each other." That's why Chrome OS is getting Google Play from Android and Android is getting the update mechanism in Nougat from Chrome OS. "You'll see a lot more of that happening".

Watch the full interview, including Lockheimer's thoughts on mobile messaging, Google Assistant, and developers, on All About Android Episode 295:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIRETynPL5M
 

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