The shift from Eric Schmidt to Larry Page as CEO of Google is more than simply a change of leadership. It represents the broader shift in the center of gravity of the web from search to social. The surprising announcement in the change at the top of Google this week has created all sorts of conjecture. Google feels the heat from Facebook and needs to reignite the passion and focus. Google has become like Microsoft a large monolithic company that still generates considerable revenues and profits but where vision, innovation and passion have died. The Microsoft comparison is the most interesting one. You could make the argument that Bill Gates stepped down as head of Microsoft as the PC lost it's power as the center of gravity in computing. The dominant company in computing for the previous decade, Microsoft's business and culture started to change as the web became the computational platform. No longer the straw that stirred the drink Microsoft saw an entire generation of talent either retire to pursue philanthropic or personal interests, or leave to start their own companies or join new ventures. As with Bill Gates and Microsoft you also have the dynamic of mega-wealth in the change at Google; where a still active, capable CEO in Eric Schmidt may have interest in what he can do for the broader world and how he might use his wealth and position to have a positive impact on society.
Great brands and companies evolve. Google, like Microsoft, will go through market changes and leadership changes and if the core of the company and it's culture are as strong as we think, it will not only survive it will thrive. In 1997, there was a similar market shift and Steve Jobs came back to Apple as CEO. A friend who worked on Wall Street asked me if I thought Apple Stock was a good buy. I told him I would wait and see. A $1,000.00 investment in Apple stock at that point would be worth $1,000,000 today. It will be fascinating to watch Larry Page take center stage at Google and lead the next phase of the growth for the company. The shift from search to social has clearly created new challenges for Google but as with all transitions will also create new opportunities. One prediction is for certain, the battle for supremacy in technology is only going to get more interesting and the real winners will be the users of the extraordinary new applications and tools that will be the result.