By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt predicted on Tuesday that there will be more than a billion smartphones in use featuring its Android software within the next six to nine months.
Schmidt also noted that Google had no intention of blocking access to a new app from Facebook Inc, saying he was "phenomenally happy" with the app from Google's rival, which replaces the homescreen on Android phones.
The new Facebook Home app was released on Friday and gives the social networking service prominent placement on Android phones.
Removing Facebook Home from Google's app store would be counter to Google's "public statements, our policies, our religion," Schmidt said at a conference in New York on Tuesday organized by the technology blog AllThingsD.
Because the Android software is open source, companies are free to tinker with it and customize it to their needs. Facebook's Home app prominently displays Facebook's newsfeed and messages on the homescreen, stealing the spotlight from Google's own services such as Web search and maps.
The five-year old Android software has been a huge hit for Google, giving the Internet search company a strong footing with consumers who increasingly access the Web from mobile phones rather than from PCs. Android is now the world's No.1 mobile phone software, with more than 750 million mobile devices featuring Android in use across the world.
At the current rate, Schmidt said that Google should cross the 1 billion mark within six to nine months and will be "nearing 2 billion in a year or two."
Schmidt also said the European Union antitrust regulators were not looking at Android issues and he noted that regulators could be done evaluating a proposal to settle an investigation of the company within the year.
"If that proceeds think it will be a pretty good outcome for everybody," Schmidt said.
The European Commission, which began investigating Google's business practices in 2010, said Google may have violated antitrust rules by pushing its own services over those of rivals, copying travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without permission and restricting advertisers from moving to competing services.
The world's most popular search engine formally submitted a package of concessions to European regulators last week. Neither the Commission nor Google have given details of the proposals. But people familiar with the matter have told Reuters these could include Google labeling its own services to differentiate them from rivals', and also imposing fewer restrictions on advertisers.
(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Alden Bentley)