A top Google executive has been given even more control of the firm's products, leading many to believe that he's being groomed to replace co-founder Larry Page as the next CEO. Sundar Pichai, who had previously expanded his responsibilities beyond Chrome OS to include Android and Google Apps, is now also responsible for all of Google's core products as well.
News of Pichai's elevation comes from an internal memo to Google employees that was first reported by re/code. The publication did not, however, quote from the memo at all.
According to the memo, allegedly, Google CEO Larry Page isn't stepping back per se, or lightening his load. Instead, he told Google employees in the memo that the change would let him focus partially on new products as well as a handful of forward-leaning endeavors. So he'll continue to directly manage businesses such as the Google X self-driving cars, Nest home automation, a new access and energy business, and some financial and business-related efforts.
But Pichai, a rising star within the firm, will effectively manage all of the products that most associate with Google. These include Google Search, Google Maps, Google+, and Google's research, commerce and ad products and infrastructure, in addition to his previous responsibilities overseeing Chrome/Chrome OS, Android and Google Apps.
Many are struggling to define how this change impacts Google. The New York Times quotes a source who said that it adds an extra layer of management and gives Google a more traditional corporate structure, while making Mr. Pichai the second-most powerful person at the company after Page. In some ways his new role could be seen as that of a chief operating officer, the paper claims, though Pichai's title has not changed.
Mr. Pichai's meteoric rise at Google began about 18 months ago when he took over the Android business, replacing Android founder Andy Rubin. Mr. Rubin had stepped aside to focus on Google's robotics efforts, and rather than promote someone on the Android team, like Hugo Barra, Google added Android to Mr. Pichai's responsibilities.
At the time, Pichai was also leading Chrome OS and Chrome development, and the speculation was that Google would be combining these two OS platforms—Chrome OS and Android—into a single, more cohesive platform. Since then, Google has maintained that it will keep Chrome OS and Android separate, though it has taken steps to better integrate the two.
In the wake of Pichai's 2013 promotion, Mr. Barra, who was previously the face of the company's Android efforts, left the search giant for an executive position at Xiaomi, the up-and-coming China-based handset manufacturer. It's not clear if Pichai's upward trajectory had any impact on Barra's exit, but Pichai has been central to Google's past two Google I/O events and has emerged as the new face of not just Android, but really all of Google's public-facing products.
As the de facto COO at Google, Mr. Pichai has only a single further step he could take upward. And it is perhaps only a matter of time before that happens.