For Apple, Microsoft, and Google, mobile convergence means executive consolidation

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 14, 2013

From The News Desk

Android has left Andy Rubin's purview and entered Sundar Pichai's, Google's senior VP of Chrome and apps. The Web has been echoing with questions of what this means for Google and its products, with rumors of Rubin joining the Glass team and Pichai moving to combine Chrome OS and Android into a single operating system. Mobile and desktop operating systems are converging, and Pichai is the man most likely to make that happen.

Google isn't the only company to consolidate its executive team and replace its (mobile) operating system managers. Apple announced last October that Scott Forstall, the man behind iOS, would leave the company and split iOS between Jonathan Ive and Craig Federighi, who lead the company's industrial design and software engineering teams, respectively. Microsoft announced in November that Steven Sinofsky had left the company and was replaced by Julie Larson-Green, who would head  hardware and software engineering for Windows products.

The mobile software guys are out. The desktop software and hardware guys -- and gal -- are in.

Apple has long lauded an integrated, end-to-end approach to product development. Its products' operating systems aren't developed by one company while its hardware is developed by another. Apple handles everything.

The next step towards even tighter integration was placing its lead executives in key positions on multiple teams. Ive no longer has to watch his industrial designs get muddied by poorly-designed software. Federighi, who has been making OS X more like iOS since the release of OS X Lion no longer has to match (and deal with) Forstall and his... "passion."

Microsoft has been adopting Apple's product philosophies, managing Windows Phone devices more than it's managed traditional PCs and developing the Surface tablet, one of the few hardware products Microsoft has developed on its own. It's reportedly combining its mobile and desktop operating systems with Windows Blue, and rumors of a so-called "Surface phone" refuse to die.

Both Apple and Microsoft announced their executive shake-ups as good things, opportunities for the companies to better manage their products. There were likely other factors at play, as Forstall is famously difficult to work with and reportedly refused to sign his name to an apology for Apple Maps and Sinofsky is said to be the same way, but the industry points towards mobile convergence and a more integrated approach to product development.

Google is starting to do the same thing. The company released the Chromebook Pixel, the first Chrome OS device built by the company; is said to be better-integrating Motorola Mobility, which has been largely ignored until now; and is relying on smartphones to power Glass, its first foray into wearable computing. Google's products and divisions are becoming increasingly linked, and it's only natural for Android and Chrome OS to be helmed by the same executive.

Though I have my reservations about Chrome OS and Android's seeming path to convergence -- and the synthesis is hardly more than conjecture at this point -- it's no surprise that Google has moved to put the same person in charge of its desktop and mobile operating systems. Apple did it. Microsoft did it. And if Chrome OS is really part of Google's future, it was about time for Google to do it too.

[Image Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET]