Google shakeup puts Sundar Pichai in charge of...almost everything

Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai says public cloud is a "natural place for us" to compete. 

Credit: Sam Churchill

Larry Page looks to invigorate the aging company, putting Pichai largely in control

Google CEO Larry Page is apprently looking to ensure his company stays forward-looking and innovative as it grows up.

To do that, he is putting Sundar Pichai, a senior vice president at Google, in charge of a large swatch of the company's core products and services, according to a report by re/code.net. The move is expected to give Page more time and energy to focus on strategic moves.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Pichai has been a major player at Google since he began working there in 2004. Before this latest move, he was in charge of Chrome, Google Apps and Android.

According to re/code, he now also will be in charge of research, search, maps, Google+, commerce and ad products and infrastructure.

The executives who previously were in charge of those areas, and reported directly to Page, have taken a step back and now report to Pichai.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said this corporate shakeup could be what Google needs.

"There are very few companies that continue to thrive from one technology generation to another," he said, pointing to former tech stars like DEC and Sun Microsystems. "History shows that the companies who dominated a particular generation of technology tend to become irrelevant or disappear as the tech world moves into a new phase. The dominant players, as they mature, tend to concentrate more on protecting their position from competitors rather than focusing on pioneering new usage models and product categories."

Page, he added, must be concerned that Google could be headed down that road and is, thus, trying to steer the company onto a new course.

"Any sort of change like this can reinvigorate a company, if done correctly with the right people," Olds said. "These are going to be interesting times for Pichai. He's suddenly responsible for a massive chunk of Google, and will be drinking from the firehose as he tries to get his arms around his new organization. It's a lot for one person to handle."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he's not surprised that Page gave Pichai more power, since he's known for being a team-first guy who doesn't seem to play politics, acts as a strong mentor and promotes the ideas of others.

"His responsibilities seem to be endless," he added. "But it's tough to look at the big picture and the detail at the same time. Page will be focused on big-picture issues and turn the detail-oriented stuff over to Pichai. One is more operational and one is more visionary."

Pichai is largely expected to make major changes in some of Google's core businesses. "If you make a change like this, the idea is to bring new ideas in and make changes to keep the company on top," said Kerravala. "If he just keeps the trains running, what value does he bring?"

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, expects Pichai to more closely integrate Google's products, giving users a more connected experience across services.

Dave Besbris, who has had a short run in charge of Google+, is one of the executives being moved aside. Besbris took over Google's social network after Vic Gundotra, the well-regarded face behind the creation of Google+, left the company this past spring.

With Pichai now in charge, the social network, which has been quietly existing without many updates or feature additions, could get a new burst of energy

"Google+ seems to be the weak link," said Kerravala. "Perhaps Pichai will try to improve Google's social position and make Google+ a stronger social networking tool."

Olds, on the other hand, doesn't think Google needs to make any big changes right now.

"I wouldn't expect to see any changes in Google-branded products right away, or at least any changes that are spurred by having Pichai as the new boss," he said. "I think a lot of this is more about Page wanting to do what he does best -- figure out new opportunities for Google."

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