Google's management shakeup: The Day After

UPDATED: A roundup of what people are saying about Schmidt and Page

eric Schmidt

Let's scan some of the reaction from analysts and commentators on the day after Google announced its major management shakeup. Some of the reviews are harsh.

(2011's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries)

Jeff Jarvis writes for Business Insider:

It should not be a shock that Eric Schmidt has stepped aside as CEO and made room for Larry Page. Schmidt was the prince regent who ruled until the boy king could take the throne while training him to do so. We knew that this would happen. We just forgot that it would.

Most everyone forgot, as there was a general consensus that the move was a surprise.

And for all the talk about princes and "adult supervision," it's worth noting that Larry Page is 37.

The Wall Street types seem more pleased with the move than tech industry pundits. "We view this as evidence of the founders staying fully engaged in the business -- a positive," said Mark Mahaney, an analyst at Citigroup in San Francisco.

Little analysis of the move failed to mention Facebook. Computerworld writes:

"I was quite surprised," said Whit Andrews, an analyst at Gartner. "There certainly was nothing going on in the industry where people were saying something is coming. Google's results have been extraordinary. But they do face a unique and extraordinary challenge in Facebook and that must be heeded in evaluating their long-term opportunity."

And, even though Google has taken on some major challengers like software giant Microsoft, Andrews said Google obviously didn't think Schmidt was the right person to tackle this new foe.

"There is no making Facebook go away," he said. "Now for the first time ever, Google will have to co-exist. They clearly feel that [Larry] Page is the man to accomplish that in the future."

Others were blunt in questioning the new CEO's readiness. From an IDG News Service story on our site:

Some wondered if Page is up to the mammoth task of running such a large, powerful and increasingly diverse company.

"I guess the question is whether being Google CEO is the place to start your executive training. I can say with some assurance that if [Page] went to apply for the CEO job somewhere he wouldn't get it," said Allen Weiner, another Gartner analyst.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land has a helpful to-do list for Page:

Welcome back, Larry! When you were last CEO of Google in 2001, the company was a much loved scrappy underdog with a bright future. Ten years later, you're coming back to the helm. Things have changed. You're soon to be steering a massive battleship that's taking on water from a number of hits over the years. Let's talk damage control.

The Guardian's Charles Arthur writes of Schmidt as though he has overseen a failed enterprise these past 10 years:

Though it's not obvious, Google's problem has been in focus and execution of strategy. Despite having something like a 90% search share in most markets, its fabled search algorithms are being exploited by spammers; despite the huge growth in sales of smartphones using its Android operating software, it hasn't been able to persuade mobile networks or handset makers to give customers the best deals by automatically upgrading their software; and more dangerously it faces an antitrust investigation in Europe over whether it cross-promotes its own services in its search results.

The first two are problematic, but the third could be murderous to company culture, as Microsoft discovered after it was found guilty in the US (and later in Europe) of antitrust violations.

If like some (including me) you were thinking maybe Page being at the helm is a stopgap measure, the principals say that is not the plan. According to the Wall Street Journal:

In an interview Thursday, Messrs. Page and Schmidt said the management change isn't temporary, meaning Mr. Page will be chief executive for the foreseeable future. In the same interview, Google co-founder Sergey Brin added that the change "clarifies our respective duties and helps all those executive managers who work for us to know whom to go to and whom to email to get questions answered quickly."

I'm still not convinced.

And the Washington Post has a collection of Schmidt quotes, including his infamous: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

(Update: PCMag points out that Schmidt will be leaving the top spot with a parting gift: "Eric Schmidt is stepping down as Google chief executive officer to take on a more external role as executive chairman, but he won't exactly be hurting for cash. According to a Wednesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Schmidt will sell 534,000 shares of Google common stock, a move worth approximately $334 million.")

(Update 2: Suppose this was inevitable: Headline on the International Business Times asks: "Will Eric Schmidt become Apple CEO?" ... Let me think about that for a second. ... OK, no.)

(Update 3: Interesting take on the Page/Brin/Schmidt dynamic from Ken Auletta at The New Yorker: "Was Eric Schmidt pushed or did he jump? Both. According to close advisors, the Google C.E.O. was upset a year ago when co-founder Larry Page sided with his founding partner, Sergey Brin, to withdraw censored searches from China. Schmidt did not hide his belief that Google should stay in the world's largest consumer marketplace. It was an indication of the nature of the relationship Schmidt had with the founders that he-as Brian Cashman of the Yankees did this week-acknowledged that the decision was made above his head. He often joked that he provided "adult supervision," and was never shy about interrupting the founders at meetings to crystallize a point. In the eleven interviews I conducted with him for my book on Google, he freely told anecdotes about the founders, sometimes making gentle fun of them, never seeming to look over his shoulder. Yet he always made clear that they were "geniuses" and he, in effect, was their manager.")

(Update 4: As the morning unwinds were hearing more from the 20-20 hindsight crowd that maybe this shakeup wasn't the shocker so many characterized it as yesterday. "While the news that Eric Schmidt would stop being CEO at Google was shocking, it wasn't entirely unexpected," writes Jay Yarrow at Business Insider. "Gossips have been saying for months the relationship between Schmidt and cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page was growing rocky.")

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