In a then wholly unexpected move, Eric Schmidt stepped away from his position as Google CEO in January to make room for co-founder Larry Page. Schmidt has moved into an Executive Chairman role, and Page takes the reins today. So what does it mean for you?
Schmidt laid out the new delegation of responsibilities at the time of theinitial announcement:
Larry will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google’s Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly.
The third leg of the triumvirate, Sergey Brin, has taken the title of Co-Founder, focusing on new products.
That was the official statement. But Schmidt hinted at what’s really going on in his tweet announcing the news:
Those “adult” duties have increasingly been Schmidt’s primary function anyway; now it’s his sole obligation. And while at the time Schmidt said he didn’t expect “any material change in any of [Google’s]strategies”, it’s clear that under Page the company has already taken on a more aggressive stance.
Case in (highly entertaining) point: Google’s Bing sting, wherein the Mountain View company suspected their rivals of ripping off its results, and set a trap to prove it. And in a move that actually affects how you search, Google’s started actively cracking down on the content farms that spam your search results with mediocre content.
That’s not to say these actions wouldn’t have been taken if Schmidt had remained in charge. But Page’s ascension does indicate that he may have outgrown some of his immaturity – he once famously brushed off Barry Diller in a meeting in favour of playing with phone – and is ready to be more forward-facing. By all accounts, Page has always been deeply involved in the direction of the company. The new title shouldn’t make him any more or less so. It’s just that: a title.
Remember, too, that Page was Google’s original CEO, having served in that position from 1998-2001. Growing the company is something he’s intimately familiar with and capable of; if anything, Google’s engineers should have even more freedom to innovate. Whether that means improved Gmail or more Buzz-type busts, though, is a lingering question.
The bigger loss might be Brin’s seemingly diminished role. Brin is often thought of as the conscience of Google, its moral centre, and while he’ll still be involved with the company he explicitly cited a desire “to work more on [his]personal passions”. Some of those will probably come through as Google products, others won’t. But the more detached Brin becomes, the more potential there is for Google to lose its compass.
Ultimately, here’s what you can expect: in the short term, not much. Your searches will still deliver highly relevant results and ads, your Gmail IMAP will still bug out on you sometimes, you’ll still have your silly doodles. But in the long-run? More products, probably in key Google soft spots like social – they’ve already unveiled Google +1, their version of the Like button that seems much better thought-out than Buzz ever was. More risks – with bigger successes and failures. And a Google juggernaut that moves faster than ever before. [Google]
Portions of this article are reprinted from the initial January announcement.