March 13, 2013, 4:16 PM — Android head Andy Rubin is stepping aside and that could mean big changes for Google's mobile platform as well as for its Chrome operating system.
Google CEO Larry Page announced the move in a blog post Wednesday, saying Rubin, will stay with the company but will take on a new role. Rubin, who is Google's senior vice president, mobile and digital content, joined Google in 2005, when Google acquired the startup company Android, which Rubin co-founded.
"The pace of innovation has never been greater, and Android is the most used mobile operating system in the world," Page wrote. "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 said Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Chrome and Apps, will take his place, leading both the Chrome and Android divisions.
"Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent, yet easy to use -- and he loves a big bet," wrote Page. "So while Andy's a really hard act to follow, I know Sundar will do a tremendous job doubling down on Android as we work to push the ecosystem forward."
Industry analysts said they were surprised by the news and some are split on whether Rubin decided himself to move on or if he was asked to step aside. Regardless of why he's leaving, this is a big shift for Android.
Rubin brought Android to prominence on the global mobile stage, creating a two-horse race with Apple. With more than 60 partners, Android has become the most popular smartphone operating system in the U.S.
"He's been working his tail off on Android, and he's made it extremely successful," said Jack Gold, an analyst with J. Gold Associates. "I don't think anyone can say he hasn't been pretty damn successful... They have become a major mobile leader. Could he have done it faster, better, smoother? Sure, you can say, "Yes," but I haven't seen any huge mistakes."
Gold said he doubted Rubin was pushed out, and that he probably wants to try his hand at something new.