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Larry Page to be Google CEO in big management shakeup

Eric Schmidt will stay on as executive chairman

Big news from Google today: Co-founder Larry Page will take over as CEO starting April 4. Current CEO Eric Schmidt, who has led the company for nearly a decade, will remain at Google but in the new role of Executive Chairman. (UPDATE: Schmidt's executive chairmanship will be a full-time role, a Google spokesman has told me). Co-founder Sergey Brin will also take on a new role, but the incredibly successful triumvirate will all stay at Google. 

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A Google press release, which also announced fourth quarter and fiscal 2010 earnings, says the following: 

"Google has also announced plans to streamline decision making and create clearer lines of responsibility and accountability at the top of the company.

  • Starting from April 4, Larry Page, Google Co-Founder, will take charge of Google's day-to-day operations as Chief Executive Officer.
  • Sergey Brin, Google Co-Founder, will devote his energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products.
  • Eric Schmidt will assume the role of Executive Chairman, focusing externally on deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership--all of which are increasingly important given Google's global reach. Internally, he will continue to act as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

Commenting on these changes, Eric said: 'We've been talking about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making for a long time. By clarifying our individual roles we'll create clearer responsibility and accountability at the top of the company. In my clear opinion, Larry is ready to lead and I'm excited about working with both him and Sergey for a long time to come.'

Larry said: 'Eric has clearly done an outstanding job leading Google for the last decade. The results speak for themselves. There is no other CEO in the world that could have kept such headstrong founders so deeply involved and still run the business so brilliantly. Eric is a tremendous leader and I have learned innumerable lessons from him. His advice and efforts will be invaluable to me as I start in this new role. Google still has such incredible opportunity--we are only at the beginning and I can't wait to get started.'"

Schmidt also wrote a blog post in which he said "as our results today show, the outlook is bright. But as Google has grown, managing the business has become more complicated. So Larry, Sergey and I have been talking for a long time about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making - and over the holidays we decided now was the right moment to make some changes to the way we are structured."

Schmidt says that as CEO, Page "will merge Google's technology and business vision brilliantly." He also joked, on Twitter, that "day-to-day adult supervision [is] no longer needed." 

This is an interesting time in the technology world, for sure, with Steve Jobs stepping away from Apple, at least temporarily, for health reasons. Both Apple and Google are making loads of money - Google reported $8.44 billion in fourth quarter revenue, up 26% year-over-year. 

There were few negatives in today's earning announcement, although one sentence indicates that expenses are going up: "Operating expenses, other than cost of revenues, were $2.51 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, or 30% of revenues, compared to $1.78 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, or 27% of revenues." 

Google has momentum in a dizzying array of markets. Search, online advertising, cloud-based software for enterpises, email, television and smartphones are all part of the Google success story. 

Schmidt just published an opinion piece in the Harvard Business Review called "Preparing for the Big Mobile Revolution," in which he says Google will be intensely focused on three goals related to mobile technology: Developing fast LTE networks, improving mobile money services, and increasing availability of cheap smartphones in poor areas of the world. 

It's not clear exactly how much power Schmidt will retain at Google. While moving to a chairmanship sounds like a Bill Gates/Microsoft type of move, it also sounds like Schmidt will still be heavily involved at the company, and Google says he will remain as a full-time employee. We'll keep you updated as we find out more. 

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter.

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