So interesting looking into the implications of their departure — although most of us did not foresee it, this was years in the making.
Page indeed took over from Schmidt. But after less than five years in the top spot, he reorganized the entire company, turning Google into a subsidiary of a bigger holding company, Alphabet. Page thrust an engineer-turned-manager named Sundar Pichai into the Google CEO role, giving him responsibility for search, Android, YouTube, Chrome, hardware, cloud computing and all of its other core businesses.
Page became Alphabet’s CEO and retreated from the spotlight to focus on esoteric longer-term projects like internet-delivery balloons and self-driving cars, which were reorganized into separate companies and rolled into a financial segment called “Other Bets.” He disappeared from earnings calls and public appearances and stopped talking to the press.
On Tuesday, four years after the Alphabet reorganization, Pichai got an even bigger job as Page and his co-founder, Alphabet President Sergey Brin, announced plans to step down. He will now be the CEO of the entire company, not just Google.
Over the summer, the company dropped a partnership with the Pentagon called Project Maven after employees protested its use for surveillance tools to analyze drone footage. Then, in October, Google dropped out of the competition for a different Pentagon cloud computing contract that could be worth $10 billion, saying the contract could conflict with its values. Employees also protested the company’s plans to build a censored search tool called Project Dragonfly, which resulted in the company scrapping those plans to reenter the Chinese market.
Pichai already holds some responsibility for the current state of affairs. He’s nominally been in charge of Google’s core businesses throughout this period of employee unrest, government scrutiny and slowing growth.
But with Page as his boss and Brin in a nebulous parallel role as the company’s president, Pichai could never assume full responsibility for all aspects of the company, from its culture to its strategy.