The New York Times is journeying into the world of Google CEO Larry Page. Reporter Claire Cain Miller paints a picture of a young corporate executive who doesn't like meetings or e-mail, and one who is on an urgent mission to pull Google through a "midlife crisis that threatens to knock if off its perch as the coolest company in Silicon Valley."
Strong words, especially considering Google's market dominance and growing influence in all things mobile. But Google has had its missteps in recent years. The federal government has taken exception to some of its privacy practices. And the competition on all fronts is fierce.
"Ever since taking over as CEO I have focused much of my energy on increasing Google's velocity and execution," Page said after Google's third-quarter earnings were posted. In the analyst call, the 38-year-old chief also said that Google is in the very early stages of what technology can deliver, and the tools we use online will look very different five years from now. The question is, how does Google fit into that picture?
Page's Quick Decisions
Eric Schmidt stepped down as CEO in January and settled into the chairman role. Page has been taking on the day-to-day management of the company he co-founded since April 4. During the surprise announcement, Schmidt said it was a move to simplify the management structure and "speed up decision-making."
The latter is important for a company that took the Internet industry by storm when it rose to dot-com fame 15 years ago. A much larger, publicly traded Google can't move as fast as its former start-up self. Giving the CEO reins to Page may have aimed to rekindle some of the early Google fire.
Page didn't disappoint. On his first day back in the CEO seat, he spent $900 million -- or at least tried. Page bid $900 million on Nortel Networks' patents to build up the Google's mutual-destruction defense strategy in an increasingly litigious technology world. When that bid failed, he acquired 1,023 patents from IBM to defend against smartphone lawsuits.
Next, cash-backed Page set his sights on a wireless acquisition. Google agreed to acquire the struggling Motorola for $12.5 billion to supercharge its Android ecosystem. These rapid-fire decisions proved that Page was ready to make his mark.
But Page is doing more than spending money. He's also killing projects. According to The New York Times, Page has dropped more than 25 projects because they weren't popular enough. Page killed Google Buzz, for example, but then again it was the project that got the search-engine giant in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission, and Google+ quickly took its place and became more popular than Buzz ever was.
Is Page a positive influence on Google or will he stifle innovation? Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said Page is clearly asserting himself in ways that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt did not.
"Page has stronger opinions and interest in the 'product' than Schmidt did. And his consciousness of the need to tweak the culture to avoid becoming complacent and overly bureaucratic is right," Sterling said. "I have no opinion on whether he may stifle innovation, but I suspect not."