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Google's Pichai offers 'guiding hand' for Android user experience

The challenge for Android is being "completely open" and having a more common user experience across all Android devices, says Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chrome & Apps.

Google's Sundar Pichai at D11. ATD

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Two weeks after his marathon keynote at Google I/O, Sundar Pichai took the stage at the D: All Things Digital conference here to reiterate his view on keeping Android and Chrome separate and having a "guiding hand" in creating more commonality in the user interface across Android devices.

"Android and Chrome represent different viewpoints, and given how well both are doing, we feel comfortable having both around," Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chrome & Apps, told conference co-host Walt Mossberg. However, he left the door open for more integration between the two platforms.

"Our plan now isn't to change course. But if you look how computing is changing, there could be synergies in interesting ways. For now, we're happy having both," he said.

Pichai asserted that the challenge for Android, which powers 900 million mobile devices today, is being "completely open" and having a more common user experience across all Android devices. "From a Google perspective, we deeply care about the user experience.... So how do we have a guiding hand to get the user experience to all the people," he said.

Mossberg described creating more commonality across the Android platform as a "little Apple-esque," referring to Apple's iron fist in controlling it user interfaces and hardware platform. "Apple does many things well, but makes very few products," Pichai said. "We are doing this in collaboration with partners."

Pichai announced that a Google-focused smartphone, the HTC One Google Edition, would be available for $600 at the Google Play store, starting June 26.

Regarding Samsung's dominance with its Android devices, Pichai said that it was a symbiotic relationship between the companies, and that the two are working on projects for the next 12 to 18 months. "It's a pretty vibrant ecosystem, and there are many small players, especially regionally, who are doing very well, such as in China and India. The ecosystem to us looks reasonably vibrant," Pichai said.

But it's really the services on top of Android, as well as other operating systems, that Google sees as its core business.

"It's not just the operating system, but it's the services on top of it, the cloud services," Pichai said. "Look at search, maps, and YouTube. We do crazy things to make maps happen...we fly planes, drive cars, and we have more coming, and we have Google Now. I think that's where the innovation lays. I don't see it as a zero-sum game, because the industry is exploding."

While Google is working to get its services, such as Google Play Music All, on Apple's iOS, services for Windows and BlackBerry are not in the works. "We want to reach as many people as possible. For platforms that don't have that many users at scale, we have great HTML5 apps. If they get more users, we will make apps," he said.

Pichai was asked about concerns regarding privacy and all the information Google knows about its users.

"There are three things we have to do, and the tradeoff is that you have to give a lot of value to people. I think people are delighted by walking into an airport and seeing a boarding pass from Google Now. The second is transparency, giving users control. Someone can take Android and replace all of Google's services, which is how they're designed from the ground up. The switching costs aren't very high. Users are the ultimate judge, and we sit and worry about this every day, to do right by the user."