January 21, 2011, 11:13 AM — Google is easily the dominant search engine in the world. And it's arguably the most influential Internet company.
So why, with Google going gangbusters, would company leaders decide that Eric Schmidt needs to step aside as its chief executive?
Larry Page, Google's co-founder, with CEO Eric Schmidt, right. Source: Reuters/Rick Wilking.
That's one question that's bringing in a lot of different opinions among industry analysts and pundits in the blogosphere. While some say that Schmidt, with his too frequent foot-in-the-mouth comments about privacy, might have worn out his top-dog welcome, others say this was just a natural transition for a company co-founder, a little older and more seasoned now, to take the reins.
"I was quite surprised," said Whit Andrews, an analyst at Gartner. "There certainly was nothing going on in the industry where people were saying something is coming. Google's results have been extraordinary. But they do face a unique and extraordinary challenge in Facebook and that must be heeded in evaluating their long-term opportunity."
And, even though Google has taken on some major challengers like software giant Microsoft , Andrews said Google obviously didn't think Schmidt was the right person to tackle this new foe.
"There is no making Facebook go away," he said. "Now for the first time ever, Google will have to co-exist. They clearly feel that [Larry] Page is the man to accomplish that in the future."
News hit Thursday afternoon, during Google's 2010 fourth-quarter earnings report, that company co-founder Page will take over as Google CEO in April from Schmidt, who will remain with the company as executive chairman.
While, the company framed the change as an attempt to streamline Google's top executive line, Schmidt himself said his new job will have him focusing on relations with customers, partners and government.