When it was announced in the early portions of 2011 that Eric Schmidt, long-time CEO and established C-level guru, was handing the control of Google back to original founder Larry Page, we knew that big changes were ahead. It was hard to say, however, whether Page’s leadership would mean more of the same or if Google may turn over a new leaf, for better or worse. Now it’s clear that Page is breaking from many of Schmidt’s examples; while Schmidt was the “adult supervision” and active mentor for Page, and continues to fill an advisory role, Page’s path has taken on a very different focus.
More specifically, Page is narrowing the efforts of the company. This began with the April management shuffle, wherein several VP positions were eliminated, several were created, and almost all the “key player” roles in the company changed. Several unexpected twists also took place, with Jonathan Rosenburg leaving the scene entirely (being unable to commit to a long-term role at Google) and Marissa Mayer being dropped from the leadership of the company; could it be her comments on Google’s failure at social upset someone?
But a management shuffle was only the beginning. Google has also dropped a number of projects, either halting development for, shutting down, or merging numerous key projects. This includes the Newspaper Archives project, the Android OS 3.x line for tablets, Google Hotpot, and many developer APIs (18 in total as of the May announcement). But what does this cleanse really mean?
For one, it means that Google is pooling its resources for more critical projects. Want a hot tip? The critical project in question is almost certainly social. Googlers have their bonuses tied to Google’s success in that arena, Google recently released two major social search elements (+1 and promoted results), and Google Circles (the rumored name of the social network) may still be on the horizon.
But what is Google sacrificing to narrow their efforts? Sure, the company is dropping a lot of dead weight, but they’re also dropping several profitable projects. As Google continues in its minimalist cleansing, it’s possible that they’ll lose some flexibility in innovation, one of the strengths that previously defined the company, and may upset developers in the process. Considering the importance of web and mobile app developers to core Google projects (especially Android, Chrome, and Chrome OS), Google must proceed with caution.