With the departure of Eric Schmidt as CEO, and the ascension of Larry Page, Google has, over the past few months, been shedding its past businesses practices, and is becoming a much more focused company.
In the beginning, Schmidt was brought in to shepherd the company and provide guidance to a young pair of entreprenuers with an exciting new search technology. Sergey Brin jokingly said that he had been brought in for “parental supervision”, but Schmidt did more than supervise; he worked hard to establish Google as not just a leader in the search industry, but a leader in innovation.
Schmidt worked hard to ingrain the 70/20/10 business model into Google during his tenure. The model states that a business should devote 70% of its time on its core business, 20% of its time on products strongly related to its core business, and 10% of its time on products that have no ties with the core business. Schmidt believed that following this protocol was key to managing Google successfully, and during his time there, Google did produce an outstanding array of surprising and innovative products, including Google Maps, Google Product Search, Google Video, Android, Google Wave and many, many others.
However innovative the projects spit out during Schmidt’s reign were, there was criticism when many of these products floundered, or failed. The system that was so integral to Google’s identity as a web innovator was also cause for criticism. It became a running joke that any product released by Google, regardless of its designation, was in beta.
In January of this year, Schmidt tweeted, “Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!” and included a link to the official Google blog where the new leadership positions were explained and clarified. Schmidt would carry on as Executive Chairman, Larry Page would be in charge of product development and technology strategy, and assume the role of CEO. Sergey Brin would devote his time to strategic products.
Page does not appear to share his predecceser’s excitement for beta. In less than one year, we’ve witnessed a subtle but telling transformation in the policy on which Google operates. No more Google Labs, Google Video, they’ve both been axed. Android, which has been dealing with its own troubles regarding fragmentation, saw the latest iteration of its supposedly open OS, Honeycomb, locked down, and within a few months the new OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, was out. Motorola was acquired, and Google Music and Google+ were launched.
But what do these changes have to do with Page, and why are they significant? Because they relate to focus. If we’re to glean anything from the anecdotes coming out from Mountainview, it’s that Page is no time-waster. Rumor has it that he demands that 1-hour meetings must be reduced to 50 minutes, to allow for bathroom breaks, obviously. The man apparently has a healthy respect for the human body, and the conservation of time. It shows in his actions as well. Google Labs and Google Video, while entertaining and occasionally useful, were on the whole, wasted resource for the company. Another big move, Google Music, speaks volumes about his leadership.
Google Music Beta was first launched in May of this year at Google I/O to little fanfare. The service was just like any other Google Beta product, lacking in features and support from outside companies. Unsurprisingly, no major music labels were behind it. It was a glorified locker service, and many expected it to languish as such. So it was quite the surprise this past week when Google Music dropped its Beta tag and announced that it had 3 of the 4 major record labels – EMI, Universal and Sony Music – behind it. To spend the time to hammer out the deals with record labels takes work, and only a company truly focused on developing that service would go to such trouble.
Page is serious about his role of product development and strategy, and the recent moves prove it. He’s willing to spend $12.5 billion on Motorola to indirectly push the direction of Android handsets. He’s putting Google+ into everything, and everything into Google+.
Perhaps crediting Page as the sole author of these changes is erroenous. Perhaps they’re still on a roadmap that Schmidt determined before he left. But I doubt it. The focus, and pace is much more intense than it has been before. This isn’t Google Beta anymore. This is version 1.0.