With Android chief leaving, is an Android-Chrome unification on the horizon?

Google's longtime Android chief Andy Rubin has passed the reins to Chrome VP Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Larry Page today announced that Andy Rubin is stepping down as the longtime leader of the company's Android strategies, handing the reins to Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and Apps. The announcement could signal that Google is moving closer toward unifying its Android and Chrome OS strategies, at least on the browser and app sides.

Rubin founded Android, Inc. back in 2003. Google acquired the startup two years later, and in the process appointed Rubin as senior vice president of Android. Page shed little light as to why Rubin was stepping down from the Android perch. "Having exceeded even the crazy ambitious goals we dreamed of for Android--and with a really strong leadership team in place -- Andy's decided it's time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google," Page wrote.

Page's tone was upbeat, but according to The Verge, there could be some behind-the-scenes discord: "Rubin's move away from Android sounds amicable on the surface, there was some evidence recently that he's been off-message regarding Google's plans -- particularly the rumored Google retail stores that several outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, reported on last month. Rubin denied those rumors, but it wouldn't surprise us to see the rumor return with Rubin's departure."

Another theory: The move signals Google's plans to unify Android and Chrome OS, perhaps through Web APIs in Chrome. If that's the company's plan, it arguably makes sense to put both platforms under one person's purview.

Also unclear: What will Rubin do next? Page specifically alluded to the company's Nexus program, the company's line of Android-based mobile devices produced by Google in conjunction with OEM partners. He also invoked Google Now, a feature in Android "Jelly Bean" designed to intuitively deliver personalized information to users on the fly. That feature is reportedly coming to other platforms, including iOS, Chrome OS, and Windows 8, according to Wired.

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