Renowned ‘father of the internet’, Vint Cerf, has lauded Eric Schmidt’s recent announcement to step down as Google’s chief executive as “fortuitous” timing that will speed up decision making at the search giant.
Cerf, who is a vice-president and internet evangelist at Google, told Computerworld Australia that departure of the former Novell CEO was not a shock to him.
“[Changes in executive structure] will slim down the decision-making process, so that there’s more specific authority placed in the various senior executives, so they’ll be able to make decisions without necessarily having a collaborative discussion,” Cerf said. “I think that will speed things up.”
Though Schmidt will step down as chief executive from Google in April this year, he will remain as a close advisor to co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Though his motives are not yet clear, some have speculated Schmidt felt derision over the decision-making process.
According to BusinessInsider, Schmidt conceded in 2009 that Page and Brin had acquired both Android — the company’s popular mobile operating system — and Keyhole — which formed the basis of Google Earth — without telling the CEO.
Schmidt’s announcement failed to make as significant a mark as the decision from Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, to take a second leave of absence for medical reasons.
Share prices for Google rose immediately after Schmidt’s announcement — largely due to a profitable quarter for earnings — but have since begun to fall.
According to Cerf, the business would not suffer as heavily as Apple, where Jobs has more granular management of product decisions. However, Google would continue to face challenges to achieve further success, including retaining a flat, project-based business structure.
“The biggest challenge for Google is how to stay small while getting big, because there’s 24,000 people working for the company,” he said. The company would also need to “imbue employees with more capability to decide to take an action”.
“The ability to execute quickly is key to the company’s success, so this notion of ‘release early and iterate’ I think is going to continue to be a very strong part of our business plan.”
Recent battles to prevent staff from switching to latest rival Facebook have also continued, recently claiming Sydney-based Google Maps developer, Lars Rasmussen, and putting further strain on Google resources. Cerf conceded that while Facebook is “a fresh face — no pun intended”, he argued the two companies did not directly compete in applications and advertising, with Google continuing to provide a point of differentiation.
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