Andy Rubin's departure is just part of Android's nature

The ultimate open source executive is moving on from Android at precisely the right time.

The open source community isn’t surprised that Andy Rubin has moved on from his post at the helm of Android. Just as so much great code has been repurposed to create Android, innovation principles have been repurposed by Google CEO Larry Page and the Google board that resulted in this change in Android’s leadership. It is not due to any failure on Rubin or Google’s part, as surmised elsewhere in the press, but rather due to their mutual success. Android’s overtaking of Apple iOS was a sign that both Android and the smart mobile device market at large were maturing; a change in the status of Google’s Android business, as a result, would be imminent.

Android is not yet making a lot of money for Google. But it has produced a much more important result than profits, at least for now: Rubin checkmated Apple with Android, preventing Apple’s dominance of the mobile search market that is so critical to Google’s future. Rubin’s achievements - 1.5 million Android activations per day, 750 million Android activations, more than 25 billion apps downloads - are enviable by Apple’s, Microsoft and BlackBerry’s standards.

When making changes to Android’s leadership, Google applied management principles that IBM and consulting powerhouse McKinsey & Co. have been using for more than a decade. IBM calls it the Emerging Business Opportunities Model (EBO). The EBO model is used for selecting, financing, staffing and managing the introduction and growth of new technology businesses. It categorizes business units based on relative maturity and contribution to the revenue and profits of the business. Horizon 1 (H1) is composed of mature businesses contributing to large revenues and profits. Horizon 2 (H2) are fast-growing disruptive businesses that could with management move into the H1 position. Horizon 3 (H3) are potentially disruptive concept-based businesses that are under development to move to H2. The focuses, challenges, people, talents, and measurements for each business type are different.

Rubin is a developer and hacker. He built one of the first smart mobile devices at a company named Danger that he founded around 2001 and later sold to Microsoft for $500 million. Danger’s smartphone, the Sidekick, ran an operating system based on Sun’s open source Java that included a third-party app ecosystem. After the VCs replaced him at Danger, he founded another company where he again built another open source operating system, this time based on Linux and Java, which Google later acquired.

Under similar circumstances IBM employed the EBO model to stem Microsoft’s dominance in midrange computing. Uncomfortable in its partnership with Microsoft and without an operating system and applications to compete with Windows and Windows server, IBM embraced Linux and the open source business model to weaken Microsoft’s enterprise dominance. IBM mustered developer advocates and open source evangelists from grid computing and object-oriented development EBO business units into the market. For the startups, such as SuSE and Redhat, IBM brought open source disruption and its credibility to the enterprise. Around 2006, with the Linux and open source businesses maturing, IBM’s H2 and H3 EBO team moved on to new opportunities and a different H1 management team was appointed to convert IBM’s investment in the H2 and H3 phases into H1 returns and profits.

Every time Google CEO Larry Page deprecates a product, the media incorrectly charges that Page is trying to streamline Google’s products into a rationalized strategy. Page is simply moving Google’s business units through the three EBO time horizons, eliminating those that won’t produce at the next horizon or applying new management to the changing business focuses, challenges, people, talents and measurements of each stage of business. Android has been moved to the H1 stage and will be managed and monetized differently.

What is next for Andy Rubin? There are so many H2 and H3 opportunities at Google for him to manage, in terms of disruptive growth and technological innovation: Google Glass, Google’s autonomous car or in-vehicle-infotainment (IVI), or something secret only known to Larry Page and Andy Rubin.

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