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5/17/2010
00:48 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Changes In Google's Mobile Division

There is no doubt Google's Android had great success in 2009 as it rolled out to a number of devices and carriers and that trend is expected to continue, but news this past week has presented some speed bumps for the mobile platform.

There is no doubt Google's Android had great success in 2009 as it rolled out to a number of devices and carriers and that trend is expected to continue, but news this past week has presented some speed bumps for the mobile platform.Last week Google announced the closing of the web based store for its own Nexus One device. Sales will continue through retail outlets that choose to carry the device, but Google's experiment of bypassing the carriers and going directly to consumers is over, for now at least.

Google also saw the departure of two of its senior people from the Android team. According to VentureBeat, Erick Tseng has left to join Facebook and become head of their mobile products group. Erick pretty much ran the daily operations of the Android project and the web store for the Nexus One. I doubt if it is a coincidence that the web store shut down and he left in the same week.

Cedric Beust was a senior software manager on the Android team and he too departed, heading to LinkedIn. VentureBeat also listed a number of other smaller players that have gone to companies like TapJoy, Apple and Square in the last few weeks. Rumor has it the departures aren't over either.

Apparently part of the reason is Google's confusing structure in the mobile area. Andy Ruben runs the part responsible for Android itself and Vic Gundotra runs the division responsible for mobile apps, like Google Voice. The problem is it isn't entirely clear who is responsible for what for many of the smaller projects, such as Contact Sync. Add on top of that there is the all powerful 16 member Operating Committee that has the authority to kill any project they don't like, no matter how far along it is.

For guys that are creating new things in a hotly contested space, this bureaucracy could be frustrating. I am sure Google is already hiring replacements or looking for internal talent to fill in the holes. Hopefully they will reorganize the mobile group so there is one lead and therefore, one direction.

During these transitions though, even the best companies stumble from time to time, and that is something Apple, Microsoft, Palm and others are waiting on.

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