The news that Larry Page has taken over from Eric Schmidt as CEO at Google was unexpected but in retrospect not surprising.
The Guardian’s Technology Editor Charles Arthur points out that Google has a problem with execution and strategy, and that it now needs someone to speak singularly for the company, while Jeff Jarvis reminds us that this was always on the cards: ‘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.’
Google has expanded so much in the past decade that, like Microsoft before it, it now faces competition from areas that aren’t ‘core’ to its main revenue-generating product (ie search). That competition boils down to two companies: Facebook and Apple.
Out of the Facebook/Apple/Google trinity, all of which are right now entering the battlefield for dominance in the future of digital media, Google was the only one not led by the ‘product guy’. This is the same thing that’s dogged Steve Ballmer’s rein at Microsoft and may well be the reason why Microsoft are not part of this battle.
The product guy is responsible for the user experience
So what do I mean by ‘product guy’? This is the person (guy or gal) who focuses relentlessly on the user. As Dorai Thodla says in his answer on Quora to the question What does being a product guy mean?: ‘The PMs responsibility is to continuously align user needs with the product evolution.’
Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) and Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook CEO) are outstanding examples of product guys. They’re inventors and visionaries who live and breathe their products.
Eric Schmidt, on the other hand, was never the product guy. No-one’s denying he’s done a great job over the past decade. But right now it’s critical that the person in charge at Google is focused on creating outstanding products that meet user needs.
It’s a positive move by Google. The only remaining question: is Larry Page still the right product guy for the job?