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Google Android feeling brain drain?

Jon Gold | Aug. 30, 2013
VP of Android mgmt. Hugo Barra headed from Google to Xiaomi – but why?

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.


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