Android Intelligence Interviews

Podcast: A chat with Android chief Hiroshi Lockheimer

Google's mobile chief shares tales from the early days of Android -- plus some straight talk about Android N's early arrival, the state of Android upgrades, and the future of Chrome OS.

Android Intelligence Podcast: Hiroshi Lockheimer

Hiroshi Lockheimer loves seeing his work in the hands of strangers.

That simple fact is what he credits with his decision to take a job at Google a decade ago -- and maybe, just maybe, give himself the chance to have his software show up on phones around the world. 

It was a dream that seemed both distant and wild at the time.

"We were a tiny, tiny part of Google," Lockheimer remembers, thinking back to his early days with the company -- when Android was still a closely guarded top-secret project. "We were kind of an outpost of an outpost of an outpost type of thing."

Lockheimer and his team spent months meeting with manufacturers and getting them on board with their vision. It's hard to even fathom this now, but convincing the companies that their humble-looking effort had the power to upend the mobile market -- well, let's just say it wasn't easy.

"I think it was valid for someone like Samsung or LG, who had been in the mobile business for a long time selling a gazillion feature phones, to question this tiny little team from Google with this dream to open source an operating system and somehow build an ecosystem around it," Lockheimer says.

"You're a tiny little team," he imagines the execs thinking. "How are you gonna pull this off?!"

Fast-forward to today, of course, and it's a completely different story. Lockheimer is now the senior Google exec overseeing what's become the world's most popular mobile operating system (yes, Android!) along with the more desktop-targeted Chrome OS platform and the newer Chromecast media-streaming effort. And boy, does he have his hands full.

I had the chance to chat with Lockheimer about everything from the early days of Android to the changes he's ushering into Google's platforms today and the challenges he's facing along the way. One of the subjects we tackled? You guessed it: the ever-present struggle with slow-moving Android upgrades.

"From the standpoint of being developers of the operating system, obviously you want your new and latest products to be out there as quickly as possible ... and so from that perspective, it's frustrating," he admitted.

We got into some of the hurdles still present in that area and some of the ways Google's working to address them. We talked about Android "N," too, including the thought process behind its surprisingly early and understated arrival -- and we got into the touchy topic of Chrome OS and the ongoing (though officially refuted) reports that Google's planning to somehow "merge" it and Android into a single operating system.

"When those rumors came out, a lot of people contacted me ... who said, 'Please don't do this,'" Lockheimer revealed.

And that's just scratching the surface.

It's all part of a brand new podcast I'm starting alongside the relaunch of this column. Android Intelligence isn't your average Android news, and this won't be your average Android podcast: Each month, I'll sit down with someone interesting from the Android world for an extended one-on-one conversation. And who better to kick things off than the man in charge of Android itself?

You can check out my full chat with Hiroshi Lockheimer in the inaugural episode of the Android Intelligence podcast. Stream the audio in the player below, download it here (right-click and save) for later listening, or pull it up in your favorite podcasting app.

The show should appear via searches in most popular apps; if you can't find it, you can manually add it by pasting into your app's search or subscribe box. Or just use the links below to add it directly into any of the following players:

Happy listening!

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