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Company at a Crossroad

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On Thursday Google announced its fourth quarter earnings. That they were exceptional was expected, that they would be overshadowed by a radical shake-up in how the company is run was not...

Starting from April 4, Google co-founder Larry Page (middle) will take over from Eric Schmidt (left) as Google CEO. Schmidt will move to the role of Executive Chairman, focusing externally on deals, partnerships and broader business relationships. Meanwhile Google co-founder Sergey Brin (right) will change his role to spend more hands-on time developing new products.

"We've been talking about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making for a long time," said Schmidt's official statement. "By clarifying our individual roles we'll create clearer responsibility and accountability at the top of the company. In my clear opinion, Larry is ready to lead and I'm excited about working with both him and Sergey for a long time to come."

This may sound glib, but it rings true. Page and Brin are only 37 years old and were just 27 when they interviewed the former Novell CEO, then 45, about adding some experience to their three year old company in 2001. The rest is history.

"Eric has clearly done an outstanding job leading Google for the last decade," enthused Page. "The results speak for themselves. There is no other CEO in the world that could have kept such headstrong founders so deeply involved and still run the business so brilliantly. Eric is a tremendous leader and I have learned innumerable lessons from him. His advice and efforts will be invaluable to me as I start in this new role. Google still has such incredible opportunity - we are only at the beginning and I can't wait to get started."

Pleasantries aside this is where things get interesting. Page may say Google is "only at the beginning", but the reality behind these high level changes is that the company also finds itself at a crossroads. For the last five years Google's rise to the top of the tech tree looked unstoppable and while that may still be the case, the company faces considerable competition from Facebook and - arguably - a newly Cloud and search obsessed Microsoft. Meanwhile its laser guided focus has started to waver and its recent track record is extremely hit and miss. In fact I would go so far as to argue Google has shown signs it is losing its way...

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