Two of the world’s top tech companies announced overhauls at the top this week. Sadly, Steve Jobs’ health will see him step aside for an as-yet unannounced successor at Apple (Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook will stand in at least in the short term). And Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, surprised most of us by tweeting, “Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed! http://goo.gl/zC89p”
Ten years ago Mr Schmidt was brought in to appease Wall Street. The inmates weren’t going to run the asylum; the kids would be looked after by a mature business brain. He’s done an incredible job but of course there are still some who will criticise saying Google is a little slow to react, that their search isn’t as good or as strong as it should be, that they acquire rather than create. But when you’re in this league, they’ll criticise you no matter what. His decade at the helm has been pretty flawless by any standard.
Product trumps business
Just like the footballers that are shuffling around the country this month, tech CEOs need to be product people. It’s easy to say from my chair, but the business side of Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Google etc becomes a poor second to the products themselves. Without great products you wont find reach. Without reach you wont have take up. Without take up there is no scale. Without scale there is no money to be had – just look at Delicious’ closure by owners Yahoo!.
I believe product input and knowledge is why Google didn’t look outside for Schmidt’s successor. Just look at the emphasis on product in this excerpt from Schmidt’s blog post on the announcement:
Larry [Page] will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google’s Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly…
Sergey has decided to devote his time and energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products. His title will be Co-Founder. He’s an innovator and entrepreneur to the core, and this role suits him perfectly.
So we know Larry is definitely a product man. The question is can he change and become more media-friendly under crushing scrutiny, or, is he going to be typically Googlesque and rip up the rules, creating a whole new cult CEO playbook? Plus, what’s the odds on Apple promoting from within for Mr Jobs’ eventual succession?