Unknown Android. Chapter 3: Hiroshi Lockheimer

In October 2015, Hiroshi Lockheimer became the new head of Android. Part Japanese, part German, Lockheimer lived in Tokyo until the age of eighteen and moved to the USA in 1993 to enter the Rice University in Houston. Texas seemed like an unfriendly place and studying to be an architect turned out to be unappealing. Instead of studying, Lockheimer spent his time in the computer lab, fascinated by the local computer that was running under UNIX. Having encountered an entire new world of computer technology, Hiroshi dropped out and returned to Tokyo to master the art of programming.

In January 2000, Rubin was launching Danger, and Lockheimer, who was already in California by that time, got a job interview. The life story of a drop out architect and self-taught programmer impressed Rubin. Hiroshi showed a lot of potential. In September 2000, Lockheimer already left Danger and became Palm’s project manager. A series of jobs here and there brought Lockheimer and Rubin together again in 2005 when Google bought Android.

"He knew my interest in consumer devices, and specifically wireless devices," Lockheimer recollects. "He called me up and said, 'Hey, you know, we're doing this thing at Google now, we got acquired. I can't really tell you what we're doing, but I think you're really going to be excited about it”. This was how Hiroshi became the first Android employee apart from the platform’s co-founders, getting the seat of executive director and VP of engineering. A little more than nine years later, Hiroshi, Sundar Pichai’s right-hand man, inherited his post as the head of platform along with the responsibility for developing Chrome OS and Chromecast.

In his interview with Business Insider, Lockheimer says that Rubin has always been more comfortable working in a team of couple dozen than in a huge enterprise. Rubin thought in terms of start-ups similar to what Android used to be with its eight employees. Those days, the company was very informal: for example, during a meeting with HTC’s then-CEO Rubin played with a remote control helicopter and crashed it.

In time, new versions of the system were developed, Nexus-series devices appeared and the number of activated devices and apps downloaded from Google Play reached astronomical numbers. More than 60 manufacturers throughout the world were creating Android-powered devices. An enterprise like this could no longer fit in the definition of a start-up and Rubin left his post to dive once more into the romantic world of young, ambitious ventures.

With Lockheimer at the helm, Android retained its easy-going feel. The new head is loved as much as Rubin and Pichai were, and when in 2011 employees got corporate mail saying that Hiroshi was appointed as the VP, the entire office boomed with cheers. Lockheimer’s charisma and sense of humor kept his reputation afloat during difficult times, and it was uncommon for a meeting with business partners to go without one of his jokes to help break to ice.

One of the latest statements made together by Lockheimer and Pichai was in support of Apple in their dispute with the FBI who demanded that the company loosen their grip on personal data protection, purportedly due to the investigation of a terrorist attack that took place in San-Bernardino on December 2, 2015. And yet, such temporary alliances with the competitor belong more in the realm of diplomacy and PR, while Lockheimer mostly deals with product management. Rubin has no doubt that the platform is in the right hands now. By the way, in February, Lockheimer hinted at the new possible name of the new Android version, having confessed in Twitter that he has a weakness for Nutella.

Hiroshi Lockheimer