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All change for Google top brass

Maggie Shiels | 09:35 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

Google co-founder Larry Page is now back in the driving seat in a job he gave up roughly ten years ago. As the newly reinstated chief executive officer, Mr Page has lost no time making his presence felt in his first week in the job.

Google executives Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in a self-driving car

There was little doubt that when Google announced back in January that Mr Page would be returning as CEO that it would mark a different era than that under Eric Schmidt.

It was also clearly hinted that the co-founder of the world's most powerful internet company would do things his way, and that he was keen to return the company to its nimble start-up roots. That of course means less management bureaucracy and putting engineers back in charge.

In his first week, there was the surprise announcement by the senior vice president (SVP) of product management, Jonathan Rosenberg, that he will leave the company.

Speaking with the San Jose Mercury News, Mr Rosenberg said he is leaving Google two years earlier than planned because he is unable to meet Mr Page's demand for a long-term commitment. Mr Rosenberg had been planning to step down in 2013, when his youngest daughter will enter college. He will now write a book along with Mr Schmidt about Google - its values, its culture, and its rules.

News of the well-liked Mr Rosenberg's departure has been swiftly followed up by a change of status for a number of major players within Google, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Andy Rubin, who ran Android, is now SVP of mobile, a major strategy for the company with five billion mobile phones in the world and a growing number of people making their first foray onto the internet via their handsets.

Also note that this week the research firm Gartner said that Android's operating system will account for almost 50% of the smartphone market by the end of 2012.

Mr Rubin will be in for a fat bonus at the end of the year if Gartner's forecast of 310 million sales in 2012 comes true. And let's not forget the nascent yet growing tablet market.

Sundar Pichai is now SVP of Chrome. In the war for talent in Silicon Valley there have been stories that Twitter tried to poach the mild-mannered Mr Pichai and that Google countered with a tasty multi-million dollar sweetener to persuade him to stay. The technology blog TechCrunch puts the figure at a whopping $50m.

The media-shy Salar Kamangar, who wrote one of the first business plans for Google and was a big advocate of the company buying YouTube, is now SVP of YouTube and video.

He is sure to have a busy time ahead, given that this week Google announced that it is opening an office in Beverly Hills for its entertainment division. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that YouTube, which acts almost like an autonomous business within Google, will spend $100m securing content and creating specific channels.

Alan Eustace will move from being a SVP in engineering to SVP of search which, don't forget, is Google's raison d'etre. And of course that dovetails neatly into ads... Google's cash cow has long been overseen by the woman often referred to as 'the most important Googler you have never heard of', Susan Wojcicki, who changes title from SVP of product management to SVP of advertising.

Susan Wojcicki

For the Google history buffs, 13 years ago Mr Page and his fellow co-founder Sergey Brin rented a garage from Ms Wojcicki as the company's first office after Stanford.

The spotlight and the big pressure however will really be on Vic Gundotra, who has been in stealth mode working out Google's answer to social networking behemoth Facebook. He becomes SVP for social. As users spend more and more time on Facebook, relying on their friends, family and colleagues as sources of information and recommendation - this hurts Google, which has been painted as failing in the social space.

A lot of people in the company will be counting on Mr Gundotra, given the rumours that Mr Page has tied everybody's bonuses this year to how successfully the company nails a working social strategy.

For many of these senior execs, there is more than just a tweak in title. It is most likely that, given Mr Page's desire to get the company to innovate faster, the changes mean each SVP can make decisions without so many layers of bureaucracy. The guess is that the model that has propelled Android and YouTube to success is one that Mr Page wants to recreate in other parts of Google, with himself very much at the centre of decision making.

"One thing is clearest of all," writes John Paczkowski at the blog AllThingsD. "Page is positioning himself as the centerpoint of the entire company. Because make no mistake, these new autonomous divisions all report to him, in a system that mimics Apple and its legendary leader Steve Jobs."

Mr Page's appearance later today at the company's regular Friday all-hands meeting, where staff can ask management any question they like, is sure to be a lively one.


  • Comment number 1.

    Maggie Shiels wrote:
    "It is most likely that, given Mr Page's desire to get the company to innovate faster, the changes mean each SVP can make decisions without so many layers of bureaucracy."

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    In a technological business which intends to be at the leading edge, it makes good sense to have engineers as the heads of the staffs, and to have them innovate. There is strength in numbers, as a saying goes, and such synergy has a strength of its own.


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