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Has Sundar Pichai Just Become Google’s Tim Cook?
Executive installed in a quasi-COO role but without the formal title.
Late last week Re/Code broke the news that Sundar Pichai, who had been in charge of Chrome and Android, would now be running most of Google’s important product lines (search, ads, Chrome, Android, commerce, maps, Google+). With the significant exceptions of YouTube, Google X, Nest and a couple other areas, the executives in charge of Google’s core product groups will now be reporting to Pichai and not to Page.
The reason offered behind the promotion was to free up Page to consider the big picture. This is consistent with Page not wanting Google to slow and become less innovative as it matures. He has shuffled executives several times since returning to the CEO role in 2011.
I’m sure Page was considering the move before Google’s recent Q3 earnings, which disappointed investors. However he may have felt additional urgency in the wake of the market’s reaction to flat or negative growth in certain areas (e.g., CPCs).
One perspective on what Page has done is that he created a quasi COO role and put Pichai in it. This is why I made the comparison to Tim Cook in the headline. Cook was Apple’s COO before succeeding Jobs as CEO after the latter’s resignation. (This is not to suggest that, like Cook at Apple, Pichai will take over the helm at Google, however.)
Had Page formally announced that Pichai was moving into a COO role I suspect there would have been a great deal more drama and speculation than there has been. Reportedly, Pichai’s SVP title won’t change — for now.
Before any formal title change, Page may be waiting to see how it works out — at which point he could bestow upon Pichai even more authority consistent with a COO role. Regardless of whether that happens, Pichai has arguably just become the second most important person at Google after Page himself.