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The overlooked Sergey Brin

23. 01. 2011.

The management change at Google has been blogged and commented to death – so hopefully it won’t hurt if I add a few thoughts of my own.

In the celebrity-obsessed world of blogs and Web media, as usual, everyone is focusing on Schmidt and Page. Is this good for Google? Is this bad for Google? Google will now blossom, Google has just commited suicide. The CEO is the be-all and end-all of every company: it’s Jobs vs. Ballmer vs. Zuckerberg vs. Ellison vs. (now) Page. The CEO is God and everyone else is “staff”.

Larry Page certainly has a huge responsibility. That responsibility, however, has a very simple focus: the bottom line. Larry’s first and foremost priorities will be revenue, profit and stock price.

All of those are important – but they won’t secure Google’s future, only the present. And in this present, as Martin Varsavsky spelled out so well, Google – and Page – need to focus on just two things: search – which is bringing in all of the money – and Android, which isn’t making any money but has been a huge, strategic success for Google.

What’s next for Google? Surely management and the board are watching Microsoft with horror, as one initiative after another fails to register on the revenue radar and Microsoft continues to be a few-tricks pony: Office, Windows and some of the servers.

In the long term, Google cannot continue to depend on a single source of revenue, particularly one that is under attack from all sides – social advertising, spammers & SEO etc.

So – it’s vitally important for the company to secure the long term, and apparently this crucial task is now in the hands of Sergey Brin. Bloggers, pundits, analysts and everyone else would do well to pay a little more attention to what he’ll be up to. Google’s R&D has produced some popular tools – e.g. Mail and Maps – and integrated others well (Android & YouTube) or poorly (almost everything else). No need to mention the fiascos of Wave, Buzz etc. Martin is totally right: focus and discipline are sorely needed – not only in execution of what is now there but also in producing new stuff. The social space is one that Google has completely dropped the ball on.

It would be *really* interesting to see Google take some major further steps in operating system design. All of today’s OS-es are age-old and architected for a completely different era. Microsoft has their Singularity team apparently locked in a gilded cage, researching this very area to death with no plans of deployment in the real world, clearly petrified of the possibility of cannibalizing the Win cash cow.

Of course there are many, many areas which Google is doing research on and of which I have no clue or idea. In any case, Sergey Brin and his colleagues need to come up with something impressive, strategic and profitable, to make sure Google has a future other than being an advertising commodity.


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  1. Personally I very much admire Google for constantly researching and making new things – just look at Google labs for example, even better, the search engine itself. There really wasn’t a necessity to make stuff like google instant or that other new thing (I don’t know what it’s called) that displays screenshots of a page just by hovering over the title; but they did it anyway. Only that fact itself can tell you how much proactive they really are.

    Or on the other hand, things like Google maps, that are so simple, but yet so powerful, just because the competition didn’t spot on time that things like that could be really useful, and Google did – which brings us back to importance of proactivity.

    What’s next? Personally I think it’s just a matter of time when Google will release a search engine that reads your mind 😀 srsly…

    Either way, I bet they will do something big. Search engine will stay on top of their priorities, but they will definitely try new things every day.

    Sure they had some big-time fails like Buzz and Wave, but that’s only because they tried to copy their competitors, and as I said, the longterm success is on the new things that haven’t yet been discovered, and Google has the best chance of discovering them.

  2. I think that besides search and Android, a sheer number of OpenId and OAuth enabled mail (and apps) accounts is also a strategic asset for Google.

    As for unsuccessful products, I am not sure that Google can do without them. They seem to stick to spaghetti development style: make a lot of them and then throw them at the wall and see which ones stick! You get some failed ones this way, but also some gems.

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