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Schmidt Canned: How Will Page Rank as Google's CEO?

Danny Goodwin
by , Comments

The speculation has already begun. Was CEO Eric Schmidt really forced out and why? Was there friction among the Google triumvirate? Will the introverted Larry Page be a good face of Google as he resumes his role as CEO?

Lots of questions and lots of speculation. Here's a look at the early reactions since yesterday's announcement that Page will replace Schmidt as CEO in April.

'Adult Supervision No Longer Needed'

schmidt-tweet.png

Schmidt has, at best, a horrible sense of humor. His "jokes" about privacy gave Google foes plenty of ammunition. Schmidt became the face of the "evil" Google in the "Don't Be Evil?" video.

Even yesterday, people wondered if his "Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!" tweet "proved" there was some sort of friction between himself, Page, and Sergey Brin.

It was actually a reference to a comment Brin made about Schmidt when he was hired as chairman in 2001: "Basically, he's going to be a bit of chaperone, providing adult supervision. Larry and I are entering our teenage years."

Schmidt's quotes are legendary, however, and perhaps one reason he's no longer CEO:

  • "One person's definition of evil is another person's different definition."
  • "Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line but not cross it. I would argue that implanting things in your brain is beyond the creepy line. At least for the moment, until the technology gets better."
  • "With Street View, we drive by exactly once, so you can just move."
  • "I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."
  • "If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use Artificial Intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go."
  • "We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about."
  • "If you have 14 pictures on the Internet, within a 95% confidence interval we can predict who you are. You say you don't have 14 pictures? You have Facebook pictures, so there."
  • "It's a bug that cars were invented before computers."
  • "One day Larry and Sergey bought Android, and I didn't even notice. Think about the strategic opportunities that has created. Sergey found Google Earth one day while he was surfing on the Web. And then he walked into my office and told me he bought them. And I said, 'for how much, Sergey?' And it turned out to be a few million."
  • "We want people to be more logged-in to Google."
  • "One day we had a conversation where we figured we could just try to predict the stock market. And then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that."
  • "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
  • "Every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites."
  • "Just remember when you post something, the computers remember forever."
  • "You can trust us with your data."

The Google China Syndrome: Schmidt Had Enough

Schmidt wanted to stay in China. Page and Brin didn't. "Upset" after losing this fight with Google's founders, Schmidt "lost some energy and focus," according to The New Yorker.

Google was increasingly being viewed as immobile, their attempts at social failed, Facebook became the "cool" company, governments started sniffing around, antitrust suits poured in or were threatened, and Street View became a public relations nightmare. Tensions reportedly increased between the CEO and the founders.

There was no blow up but tension was increasing for a while "over who has day-to-day decision making" authority, mainly due to Schmidt's "corporate mentality" and being more formal and process oriented, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Rumors that Schmidt was ready to leave can be traced back to last summer. TechCrunch claimed they were ready to break this big story, but Google denied. The WSJ report also indicated this was in the works long before the holidays, as Schmidt said in his blog post .

Schmidt is expected to remain on as Executive Chairman for a year and then leave, according to the New Yorker. Prior to Google's IPO, the trio had vowed to work together at Google "at least 20 years," or until 2024.

Schmidt Will Also Make Millions

Don't feel too bad for old Eric, though. The billionaire is set to make $335 million by selling 534,000 shares.

Schmidt's plans were revealed in a regulatory filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Schmidt owned 9.2 million shares of Google as of Dec. 31, 2010, worth an estimated $5.8 billion.

Google's Growth Under Schmidt

Sales

  • Start: $86.4 million 

  • End: $29.3 billion

Net income

  • Start: $6.99 million

  • End: $8.5 billion

Stock Price

  • Start (2004): $85

  • End: $626

Market Value

  • Start (2004): $23 billion

  • End: $200.43 billion

Employees

  • Start: 284

  • End: 24,400

(via paidContent)

Of course, maybe he was just lucky.

Facebook and Social

Perhaps Google is positioning itself to fend off a growing threat from Facebook. One Gartner analyst says Google is facing a unique and extraordinary challenge from Mark Zuckerberg's social network.

"I was quite surprised," Whit Andrews told PCWorld. "There certainly was nothing going on in the industry where people were saying something is coming. Google's results have been extraordinary."

Schmidt wasn't the man to wage war with Facebook, he said.

"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 Page is the man to accomplish that in the future."

During the earnings call last night, Brin said that the company has only touched "just 1 percent of the capabilities" of real-time search and social search.

"If you think about the next five years of what your life will be like, online, socially, and what kind of things the tools will be able to do, we're only at the very, very early stages of that, and I'm incredibly excited about the possibilities," Page added.

Turn the Page

"He is a very private man, who often in meetings looks down at his hand-held Android device, who is not a comfortable public speaker, who hates to have a regimented schedule, who thinks it is an inefficient use of his time to invest too much of it in meetings with journalists or analysts or governments. As C.E.O., the private man will have to become more public. And he will have to rid himself of a proclivity most engineers have: they are really bad at things they can't measure," according to the New Yorker.

So is Page, the mastermind of PageRank, ready to lead?

"I think it became obvious to everybody that [after China] Larry [should] start running the company he created. The training wheels needed to come off," Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, told PCWorld.


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