As Google’s bombshell reorganization under its new holding company, Alphabet, settles into the world’s consciousness after being announced on Aug. 10, longtime executive Sundar Pichai will now lead the reconfigured company as the CEO of the flagship Google unit.
Pichai (pictured), who joined Google in 2004, has had many roles inside the huge search company over the last 11 years, including his promotion last October as the senior vice president of product overseeing Android, Google Chrome, Google Apps, Google+, Google Maps, Google Play, Research, Search and much more. He’s a trusted and valued member of the company’s executive team, and his retention is already being discussed as one of the reasons for Google’s reorganization.
So what will the flagship Google unit look like under Pichai’s leadership now that co-founder Larry Page is giving up his CEO role at Google to take the same title at Alphabet? Several IT analysts shared their views on Pichai’s promotion and said he appears to be the right person for the job.
Pichai is so important to Google that “he is likely part of the reason this breakup is taking place,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, told eWEEK in an email reply. “He was rumored to be in play and had earned a CEO slot, yet there were none at Google to be had, and he supposedly was on the short list of folks who were in the final pool to be Microsoft’s CEO. He is one of the most successful executives in Google, kind of a golden boy in that most everything he touched was successful while he touched it.”
Pichai also could help the Google unit reduce some of its past problems with government agencies that have had concerns about the company’s power and breadth, wrote Enderle. “His history seems to be more about building bridges than starting wars so the result should be a more compliant Google,” he said. “He seems to have a good feel for both users and his team as well so we could also see a service that advances closer to user needs.”
Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT, told eWEEK that Pichai’s importance to the company was clearly illustrated last October, when then-CEO Larry Page decided to step back to look at “bigger picture” issues and brought Pichai in to handle some of Page’s former roles at Google.
Pichai “has established a reputation as a sincerely nice guy who is deeply loyal to the teams he manages and to ensuring they are well-supported and informed, [which are] leadership qualities that aren’t as common in the business world as they should be,” wrote King. “It is unsurprising that rumors have arisen about Pichai being headhunted for other high level leadership positions (supposedly to lead product development at Twitter, and shortlisted for CEO at Microsoft). But sticking with Google should be beneficial for both Pichai and the company. Frankly, it’s difficult to think of anyone with deeper practical knowledge of the company and its core products than Pichai.”
Analyst Scott Strawn of IDC told eWEEK that Pichai “has been the guy in waiting” at Google for a job like the CEO post. “This has been kind of long in coming and that it’s been done in the context of a broader reorganization makes sense.”
The actual reorganization, which is likely more interesting to the world of investors and financial analysts than to consumers, allows Page to move into the things he loves to do, like Google’s “moonshot” projects, which tackle huge social, scientific and global issues to find new technologies and ideas, said Strawn. The reorganization also creates more cost controls for the company’s units, which “is something that Wall Street and analysts and investors have been asking about for a long time.”
What Google Will Look Like Under New CEO Sundar Pichai
Another analyst, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told eWEEK that while Pichai has been with the company for a long time and knows it well, it will take some time to see if he can fill the very different role he now has as CEO of Google.
“Pichai is a product person with a combined background of technology and business,” wrote Moorhead. “This combination typically makes the best product leaders, but doesn’t always translate to a great CEO.”
The new post “is a huge job for Pichai, bigger not only in title but in terms of responsibilities,” he explained. “We won’t know if Pichai is the right person for the job for 12 to 18 months. The CEO job isn’t just about cranking out good products, but also managing Wall Street, the community, multiple product lines and being the figurehead for all employees.”
Pichai, 43, received a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School, where he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar. Before joining Google, he worked for Applied Materials and McKinsey & Company.
Under its new reorganization, Google created its Alphabet holding company so it can reorganize its 40,000 employees and separate its core businesses from its venture and innovation side, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Google becomes a separate subsidiary that controls the search and advertising businesses, Android mobile operating system development, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Ads, and the Google Play sales franchise. Alphabet will encompass new-gen businesses and ventures such as Nest, Google Capital, Calico, the Google X Works, and Google Fiber. Google’s self-driving vehicles initiative, while not mentioned Aug. 10, also will be included here.
Google’s other co-founder and executive-in-charge-of-cool-stuff Sergey Brin will be the president of Alphabet. Eric Schmidt remains Chairman of the Board.