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Google's Page: Dying Jobs called ME, I didn't call him

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Larry Page has been back at the helm of Google for a year now, but so far his second tenure as the Chocolate Factory boss has been marred by his blinkered focus on overhauling the company to become much more of a social property online.

In a mildly probing interview with Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday, Page defended his biz strategy.

But he also admitted that Google, which has carefully rejigged the world's information mathematically through the use of search algorithms, failed to spot the "social" element that its rival, soon-to-go-public Facebook, has traded on with advertisers.

“Our mission was organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful,” he said. “I think we probably missed more of the people part of that than we should have.”

Arguably, though, it's that unswerving desire to keep up with Facebook that has proved so damaging for Page over the last 12 months.

Upon returning to the CEO chair, Page simplified the company's product strategy and emphasised to his employees the importance of social networking for Google.

Staff were told that their bonuses would depend on the success of Google+, a social network that some at Google have claimed is not a social network.

Engagement on that "platform", as some Mountain View execs prefer to call it, remains low in comparison with Facebook and Page knows that. Its userbase apparently stands somewhere in the region of 100 million people worldwide.

But it's always been obvious that Google is, at best, racing for second place in the social networking league table.

And Page, who insists that his company's "soul" hasn't been ripped out, is pretty miserable about Facebook's closed-door policy on sharing contacts with its rival.

“We would love to have better access to data that’s out there. We find it frustrating that we don’t,” he told Bloomberg in reference to the company's recent controversial decision to plonk social elements into its search engine. It's a move that, for some, was a bit like turning a flagship department store into an unloved mall.

Page had a little moan about Facebook's refusal to let the Chocolate Factory gain access to the contact details of users on Mark Zuckerberg's siloed network.

“Our friends at Facebook have imported many, many, many Gmail addresses and exported zero addresses out,” he said. “They claim that users don’t own that data, which is a total specious claim. It’s completely unreasonable.”

In the same interview, Page noted an anecdote used in Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.

The book recounts how Page phoned Jobs on his deathbed to get some advice from the Apple co-founder on how to run Google. Jobs was himself a second-time-around CEO and had offered some words of wisdom to Larry.

Page corrected that version of events, however, by claiming that it was Jobs who had called him. The Google CEO added that he believed much of what Jobs said against his company in the months leading up to the Apple man's death was "actually for show".

Jobs had threatened "thermonuclear war" on Google for supposedly copying parts of Apple's iPhone when building its own Android device.

Page reckoned that that showy contempt for Google was simply done to whet the competitive appetites of Apple employees.

“For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to really feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors,” Page loftily opined, which is interesting given his clear fixation on Facebook right now. ®

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