Google at Davos
When Google announced last week that Eric Schmidt would be standing down as Chief Executive, he tweeted that it was because "day to day adult supervision no longer needed" for the company's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergei Brin.
Page will take over the day to day running of the company, with Schmidt kicked upstairs, as Chairman. It was a flip comment - but curious. The general view in Silicon Valley these days is that Google is rather too grown up. What it needs to do is regain its youth.
When I interviewed him a few minutes ago, you will not be surprised to hear that Mr Schmidt rejected this criticism - and most of the others that I threw at him. Like the complaint that Google has become a copy-cat company - "scaling up" other people's ideas, rather than coming up with something new of their own. He also had no problem with the fact that Google still makes most of its money from search and advertising based on it. "The companies that raise this issue", he said smugly, "would kill to have our numbers."
But - he did accept that Google had been slow to engage with the social networking piece of the web (a polite way of saying that they missed entirely the most important development in the Internet in the last five years). Facebook, Twitter and others are so much more evident here in Davos than they were last year, when Mark Zuckerberg and the rest were still the new kids on the block and it was still possible for lowly folk like me to capture some of his time.
In the industry, it's an open secret that Google is livid with Facebook for poaching so many of their people. I asked Schmidt whether he was sad that relations between them had turned so bitter: weren't they supposed to be above this kind of thing? In his reply he protested just a bit too much: the way he told it, Google had barely noticed that their people had gone. And he couldn't help observing, moments later, that he was rather worried that social media like Facebook were threatening the openness of the web.
He also had some interesting things to say about Google's complex dealings with Germany and China - and their engagement with governments, regulators and lawyers around the world. He thinks he could spend as much as two thirds of his time dealing with all of that in his new job as Chairman. I wonder whether he ever finds time to spend any of his tremendous wealth.
Has-been? Visionary? Megalomaniac? All of the above? Watch the interview on Newsnight or BBC World, and decide for yourself.