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Google swaps old CEO Schmidt for older CEO Page

Management shakeup for 'better decisions'

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Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt is getting bumped aside after 10 years in charge and will hand back power to original CEO, and co-founder, Larry Page.

Schmidt is moving from day-to-day running of the web's largest search and ads company to executive chairman, serving what can only be described as an ambassadorial role. Schmidt had been chairman in addition to CEO.

The change was announced by Google Thursday afternoon, just before the company published fourth-quarter financial results for Wall Street.

Schmidt, who was named chairman in March 2001 and CEO the following August, said he'll now focus on where he can add "the greatest value".

"Externally, on the deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership that are increasingly important given Google's global reach; and internally as an advisor to Larry and Sergey," he said here.

The change is part of a shake up in the power triumvirate of Schmidt, Page and other co-founder Sergey Brin to simplify Google's management structure and speed up decision making Schmidt said. Page was co-founder and president of products and Brin co-founder and president of technology.

Page, whose return to CEO is effective on April 4, will also lead product development and technology strategy. Brin gets the job title of co-founder and will work on strategic projects and products.

"For the last 10 years, we have all been equally involved in making decisions," Schmidt wrote.

"This triumvirate approach has real benefits in terms of shared wisdom, and we will continue to discuss the big decisions among the three of us. But we have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there's clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company," Schmidt wrote.

The change over indicates there's been a clear decision to put a web-scale technologist back in charge and to return some of the founding drive to strategic and day-to-day decisions, given Page's role as Google's founding CEO at the beginning.

During Schmidt's 10 years, Google built and consolidated a formidable search and ads empire thanks to people surfing at their PCs. The question is what's next for Google, and how does it stop from developing the kind of mid-life spread and loss of direction that's afflicted other tech companies and seen them overtaken by fresher rivals.

Notable challenges today are search on mobile devices, a completely open field, and how far Google can morph beyond search. The chatter currently is the growing competition with Facebook, and whether Google is developing its own social-network-like service

Efforts to diversify have so far largely failed: discount phenomenon Groupon was reported to have resisted Google's attempts at acquisition, a once unthinkable reaction for any web company or start up whose dream exit strategy would have been a Google acquisition.

The long-awaited Chrome operating system has yet to launch, despite promises from Schmidt, while it's unclear who will buy a Chrome-based netbook or - even - which OEMs will actually make it. Google also mis-calculated the resentment it would stir among telcos when it decided to sell its own Google phone, the Android-based Nexus One. Google subsequently backtracked by killing both direct sales and phone for the sake of Android phones from the likes of Motorola.

Google's successes outside of search and ads in the last 10 years have been in Gmail and Office like word processing and spreadsheets with Google Docs, and with the blow-out Android. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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