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Google's head of Android: Apple should temper its criticism

Sundar Pichai says his job is, in some ways, harder than Tim Cook's, but that his approach is more powerful.

Android chief Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Android. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Google and Apple often appear to be like political parties.

One touts its openness, the other seems closed. One claims it's more progressive, the other says it's more tasteful.

It's Apple, though, that seems to enjoy mocking Google more than is the case the other way.

During the recent Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook offered Android a rare compliment. He described it as a "toxic hellstew."

Such words wouldn't have sounded out of place coming from the lips of Donald Rumsfeld. How, though, does Google feel about this?

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Google's head of Android, Sundar Pichai, explained that Apple's criticism of Android's allegedly fragmented and insecure existence is misplaced.

He said: "It must be liberating [for Apple] to wake up and think about your device, your software, and hey, 'I can even call the chipset guys and say what the chip should be.' I have to think about building a platform and bringing as many people along on this journey and getting it right. I believe that ultimately it's a more powerful approach, but it's a lot more stressful as well."

There are few things worse than trying to get people with competing interests to all agree. One can understand why Pichai's life is stressful.

However, what's less clear is what he means by "powerful." Is he referring to the idea that, ultimately, he believes that the greater ubiquity of Android devices will carry the day?

Among his other comments, Pichai said he's worked hard to create better relationships with companies such as Samsung: "I felt there was more distance than I would like in a partnership. I wanted a closer, more direct line of communication."

Is he worried about Samsung's own operating system, Tizen? "I view Tizen as a choice which people can have," he says. "We need to make sure Android is the better choice."

What about Apple? Is Cupertino a source of worry? Pichai insisted that Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, is a different animal than Android.

He said that at the latest WWDC, Apple announced "things we have done in Android four or five years ago."

But who's winning?

Pichai insisted: "Every piece of data I look at tells me that people are adopting Android at a faster pace than any other operating system. We are doing remarkably well...They run a great show. I take it for the value of the show...Do I worry about what they are doing? Yes. They are a great company. I think they are building a very good product and it's vertically integrated, which helps them do certain things faster."

Of Cook's criticisms, Pichai offered this: "You have to be careful when you make a $100,000 Mercedes car not to look at the rest of the automotive industry and make comments on it."

So often, Apple is compared to BMW or Mercedes. But is Android really the rest of the industry? Microsoft would like to disagree. Moreover, Samsung's creation of Tizen might suggest that leaving a vast proportion of the mobile industry in the hands of Google isn't necessarily the ideal future.

When it comes to cars, there are so many brands. Might that happen with operating systems one day?