January 25, 2011, 4:20 PM — You have to wonder if Microsoft execs were dancing the jig after hearing the news that business-minded Google CEO Eric Schmidt was replaced by 38-year-old co-founder and elusive search guru Larry Page.
Page may be a tech visionary who invented the algorithm for Google's search engine, but there is not a lot of confidence among industry analysts that he has the personality and business expertise to run day-to-day operations at a company of Google's size and stature.
"Schmidt was the most business- and market-focused guy they had," says veteran tech analyst Roger Kay. "Larry Page doesn't replace that business acumen, and Google needs to replace it one way or another."
Certainly any time there's a change in leadership at a company, it can be perceived as a victory for the competition. In this case, Microsoft -- one of Google's biggest competitors in various markets -- can take comfort that some of Schmidt's more enterprise-focused projects could fall by the wayside now that the more consumer-minded Page has the CEO seat.
What About Google Apps?
The Google Apps suite for businesses, which costs $50 per user per year and includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and several other services, has not been a market share threat to Microsoft cash cow Office, but it did motivate Microsoft to change its business model. During the past few years, Microsoft has made Exchange, SharePoint and Office files available as a low-cost cloud service, originally called BPOS (business productivity online suite) and now called Office 365.
Would Microsoft have put Exchange and SharePoint in the cloud without pressure from Google or created ad-supported Office Web Apps as part of Office 2010 if Google Docs hadn't gained attention and users? It's unlikely, analysts say.
It's possible that Google will take its eye off the Google Apps enterprise movement with Page in charge, given his penchant for prioritizing search engines, YouTube, and the Chrome browser and OS over enterprise software and services.
"If Google lets Google Apps languish, even a little bit, it only benefits Microsoft," says Kay.
Since Thursday's announcement of Schmidt's departure as CEO, Page has not publicly addressed how Google's strategy may change when he takes the helm.
Google's One-Trick Pony Perception Problem
One criticism has dogged Google for the past few years: it relies too heavily on search and search advertising for revenue.
That criticism may be reinforced by the decision to bring back the man who last led Google in 2001 when it was a rapidly growing, but one-dimensional search upstart.
"With its reliance on search for revenue, a lot of people see Google as standing on one leg," says Kay.