And just like that, Google I/O 2014 will be a different show – vice president of Android product management Hugo Barra abruptly announced that he'll be leaving Google in "a few weeks" to join Chinese phone maker Xiaomi.
It’s not the first high-profile change at the Android unit in recent months. Andy Rubin, who’d been with Android since its pre-Google inception, left in March to tinker with robots over at Google X. Over at the Android Open-Source Project, maintainer Jean-Baptiste Quéru stepped down a couple weeks ago over an apparent clash with Qualcomm.
Uniting Android and Chrome under Sundar Pichai’s leadership made sense in the case of Rubin, and JBQ’s role as interlocutor between the AOSP community and Google’s corporate partners always carried the possibility of precisely the type of situation that led to his leaving. Yet Barra’s departure is less readily susceptible to explanation – he’s been one of the more prominent public faces of Android, and a key presenter at Google’s I/O developer conferences.
Valleywag is keen to paint Barra’s move as fallout from some sort of sordid romantic entanglement involving another Google employee and no less than Sergey Brin himself, based largely on reports from AllThingsD which were based in turn on anonymous sources.
It’s a bit disappointing to see from Valleywag, which frequently sends up the craziness of Silicon Valley’s elites with much more justification, but I suppose you can’t really complain too hard about what you get from a site that says up-front that it deals in gossip. AllThingsD’s anonymous “sources close to the situation” also say that Barra made his decision before “he was made aware of the new relationship,” for what it’s worth.
At any rate, broken heart or no, Barra is set to take over as vice president of Xiaomi Global, according to a Google Plus post making his pending departure official. It’s a pretty big coup for a company without much public profile outside of China, but, according to USA Today, much in keeping with its strategy of attracting experienced personnel from established U.S. companies like Google, Microsoft and Motorola.
A recent study from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI says that Android is a “primary target” for mobile malware attacks thanks to its open architecture and skyrocketing user base. The biggest threats to Android users, the report says, are SMS Trojans, rootkits and bogus Google Play domains.
The study, which was publicized by activist group Public Intelligence, also states that older versions of the platform – which are still in use on 44% of Android devices – are particularly vulnerable to malicious attacks. You know, just in case you were looking for other reasons OS fragmentation is bad.
Android geeks briefly erupted in flames this week at the news that well-known Android developer Koushik Dutta’s AirCast app for the Chromecast video dongle had been prevented from working by an update. AirCast was designed to allow users to stream locally stored content from their devices to the TV, but an official update to Chromecast added a whitelist system, preventing users from using the device to stream content from non-approved sources.
Dutta’s sonorously unhappy Google Plus post here has most of the details.
However, Google subsequently told The Verge that the software is still early in its development stages, and that “we’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content.” So that’s probably that, then.
Like most people, I’ve been spending plenty of time lately thinking to myself “you know, I could really do with some more PR stunts involving Google Glass.” Take heart, everyone! A surgeon at Ohio State University has performed an ACL repair operation while wearing the device, which streamed pictures to colleagues and students.
To be fair, that’s one of the more useful PR stunts I’ve heard of recently. But I’m just worried about what happens when a doctor is out and about and accidentally switches back to the consultation app. It’d have to be a little off-putting to keep seeing gastrointestinal surgery when you’re just trying to get directions to the nearest Starbucks.
Email Jon Gold at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.