Google: Back to the Engineers

April 6, 2011

Can Google recapture the zip it had from 2002 to 2006? That’s a question of some interest to institutional investors and anyone without an engineering, technology, or computer science background at Google. With engineers ascendant under the stewardship of Larry Page, the art history and social studies types with MBAs may be shaking in their sneakers.

I read “Google’s Page Begins Major Reorg: Engineers, Not Managers in Charge.” Here in Harrod’s Creek, the fray is far away. We certainly don’t disagree with the Digital Daily’s write up. In fact, we found this one sentence as pregnant as a female Canadian goose overnighting on our pond:

Reimagined like this, Google would become an ambidextrous organization with more powerful unit line execs, mostly engineers, doing what needs to be done to succeed, less burdened by the need to vet every little effort through various managers of Google’s powerful operating committee.

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Which of these four horse people of the Google-geddon is Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft? I see the hooded horseperson as Jeff Bezos. Your thoughts on the other three?

Is this an echo of Microsoft? It does not strike me as a return to the Google of yore. Three reasons:

  1. Google has more legal hassles than a Web search company deserves. These legal eagles may be as annoying as flies in Canberra in November, but the legal stakes are sufficiently high with notions of anti trust and monopoly floating around to distract even the most focused engineer. In the 2002 to 2006 period, the Google had few legal eagles messing up the day.
  2. Google is big. In fact, Google is sufficiently big that it has difficulty hiring the “A team” people that formed the foundation of Google 2011. The problem with adding C players to the A team is that one gets such stuff as Wave and Buzz and such non stuff as a response to Facebook or to Amazon. Big means slow and friction. Will Google fire lots of people to become agile? Nope. Will Google become agile? Nope, just more controlled or semi controlled chaos I opine.
  3. Google has some really serious competitors. In 1998, there was no competition in search. In 2002 to 2006, potential competitors were floundering. Now there are some formidable competitors with smart people. Facebook has a dose of Googlers which makes the Google Facebook duel particularly interesting. But one must add Apple to the line up of outfits who are doing well and without significant Google push back. What’s Google going to do? Ignore Amazon, Apple, and Facebook to name three tough customers? Now Google has to deal with a Microsoft largely indifferent to irony. Microsoft is pushing Google’s strong market position as an alleged monopoly. Chuckle.

Bottom line: great write up, interesting reorganization initiative, just too late to do much more than wave hands at some of these four horse people of the Google-geddon. Today’s competitors are different from the clumsy Hewlett Packard and its stewardship of AltaVista.com engineers and technology, the silly Yahoo, and the clueless portal pursuers. Today’s competitors are serious dudes and dudettes.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2011

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2 Responses to “Google: Back to the Engineers”

  1. » Pandia Search Engine News Wrap-up April 10 on April 10th, 2011 8:31 am

    [...] Google’s Page Can’t Buy Social Love Google Watch: Page allegedly wrote in the memo, titled “2011 Bonus Multiplier,” that the company multiplier will be somewhere between .75 and 1.25, depending on how well Google does in social. Employees’ bonuses could shrink by 25 percent if Google doesn’t perform. No pressure, right? This is the sort of stuff that confirms chatter that Page and the rest of Google’s senior management view computer science problems as something that can be solved with math. See also: Beyond Search. [...]

  2. Google and Its New Management Method: Pundits Throwing Punches : Beyond Search on April 10th, 2011 10:12 am

    [...] may also find Google: Back to the Engineers germane as well. The drum beat is consistent. The types of changes underway at Google are likely to [...]