The abrupt retirement/resignation/deck chair shifting of Google CEO Eric Schmidt couldn’t have been timed better — if you were Facebook. As dissected by the Gillmor Gang, the news of Larry Page’s reascension to the throne seemed just one more shoe dropping in the wake of Steve Ballmer’s axing of Bob Muglia, Steve Jobs’ step back to focus on his health, and other reboots from companies including HP, SAP, and I forget. Actually, mentioning HP and SAP served to bore me into stopping the last sentence.
The one connective tissue is the tectonic shift in technology caused by the iPad, or as @Scobleizer pointed out, the iPhone. Though @DannySullivan and @KevinMarks insisted on extolling the virtues of the free and open Web, there’s no doubt in my mind that Apple’s (and particularly Steve Jobs’) combination of design, control of a hungry niche marketplace, and political savvy adds up to a defining moment that rolls up media, technology, consumers, and the enterprise. And instead of running plays from their own playbooks, Apple’s competitors are working to undermine or dilute the impact of iOS.
Schmidt was not so much a victim of the Apple blitzkrieg as the notion of Google inevitability, or certainly invincibility. No one event or fumble seemed to add up to a reason for the firing, but rather there was the feeling of the absence of a strategy, a game plan, a vision if you must, of how to move beyond the lock on the world’s search market. It felt like the way the pioneers must have felt when they ran out of land at the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from China, shut down by the consumer electronics manufacturers with Google TV, and facing a developer base confused by old style jousting with Apple around H.264 and HTML 5, Brin and Page decided to graduate from middle school.
Whether Brin can nail social any more than he has tried for the last few years, or Page can soften up the media against his DNA, the striking question we had was not whether the Schmidt move was too radical but rather why not do the same thing with Ballmer. As @JTaschek ticked off the definition of what a modern CEO does in the Age of Facebook and Twitter, it occurred to me that both Google and Microsoft should look toward someone who comes from the the Industry Formerly Known as the Media to turn things around. Besides, Ricky Gervais is out of work.