Tuesday, July 23, 2024

It’s the end of an era for Android

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A photo of many Android figurines on a white wall.Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Android world is changing.

On June 12, Dave Burke announced on X (formerly Twitter) that he’s stepping down from his role as the VP of engineering for Android. In his post, Burke says he is staying with Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is temporarily remaining on the Android team as an “advisor,” and is looking for new opportunities in “AI/bio.”

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So… after 14 yrs leading Android engineering, I've decided it's time for a change. An awe-inspiring ride helping build the biggest OS on the planet (+ many Nexus/Pixel). I'm forever grateful for the opp. Continuing as advisor while figuring out what's next in AI/bio. More here:…

— Dave Burke (@davey_burke) June 13, 2024

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Burke provides a bit more info in his departure email posted on LinkedIn, writing:

“AI has the potential to play a pivotal role in accelerating drug discovery, with wide applicability, including in hard-to-treat pediatric cancers, a topic close to my heart. I’m working with Sundar to explore relevant roles at Alphabet.

“There’s no way to sum up almost 1.5 decades of work in a single email. But I wanted to say thank you for the once-in-a-lifetime, awe-inspiring opportunity. I stayed so long because of our incredible impact – building the future of computing at planet scale.”

Even if you don’t know Dave Burke by name, if you’ve used an Android phone over the last 14 years, you’re familiar with his work. Burke started his VP of engineering role in October 2014, but he’s been with Google since as early as 2007. Throughout his time at Google, Burke played a significant role in creating the Nexus and Pixel smartphone brands, the Google Chrome mobile apps, Android TV, and more. Burke has often made an appearance at Google I/O over the years to showcase new Android features, including Google I/O 2024 just last month.

Dave Burke at Google I/O 2024 Google

Burke hasn’t said who will be taking over his role going forward. In another part of his email posted to LinkedIn, Burke writes, “It’s important for me to leave you in good hands with a well thought out succession plan.” He continues: “We’ll be following up shortly with some additional specifics about this change, so please keep an eye out for that.”

This news follows another big internal shift at Google from less than two months ago. In April, Google announced that its Android, Chrome, Pixel, Nest, and other teams would now be overseen by Rick Osterloh under a new “Platform and Devices” team. At the same time, Hiroshi Lockheimer (another old guard on the Android team) left Android to work on “other projects” within the company.

With this week’s news about Dave Burke, it’s more apparent than ever that Google is radically shaking things up, especially with the Android team. Burke has been synonymous with Android for nearly a decade now, so his departure is not one to be taken lightly.

What does this mean for the future of Android? It’s too early to say. Likely, we won’t see any drastic changes anytime soon — and maybe not for a while. But prominent leaders leaving like this indicate that something big is happening. What that means for you and me, we don’t know for sure. But if you’re an Android fan and eager to see where the OS goes next, it’s safe to say these are mighty interesting times.

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