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October 24, 2011

How Steve Jobs Influenced Google's Restructuring

Walter Isaacson's book about Steve Jobs includes some unflattering quotes about Google and Android, but it also explains Larry Page's decision to close many Google products and to create a cohesive interface for Google. After announcing that it will become Google's CEO, Larry Page met Steve Jobs, "who lived less than three blocks away", and asked for tips on how to be a good CEO. Here's how Steve Jobs described the meeting:
We talked a lot about focus. And choosing people. How to know who to trust, and how to build a team of lieutenants he can count on. I described the blocking and tackling he would have to do to keep the company from getting flabby and being larded with B players. The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It's now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.

It's interesting to note that focus is one of the three principles of Google's new design. "With the design changes in the coming weeks and months, we're bringing forward the stuff that matters to you and getting all the other clutter out of your way," explained Google. Focus is also one of the reasons why Google closed Google Labs, discontinued Google Desktop, Google Pack, Google Health, and many other services. "This will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience. It will also mean we can devote more resources to high impact products — the ones that improve the lives of billions of people." More wood behind fewer arrows means that the number of Google products will continue to decrease. Even Larry Page admitted back in July that "greater focus has also been another big feature for me this quarter" and that "focus and prioritization are crucial given our amazing opportunities".

Steve Jobs was a role model for Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When Google's founders wanted to find a CEO for Google, Jobs was a perfect match. "One person, and one only, had met their standards: Steve Jobs. This was ludicrous for a googolplex of reasons. Jobs was already the CEO of two public companies. In addition, he was Steve Jobs. You would sooner get the Dalai Lama to join an Internet start-up." (from "In the Plex", by Steven Levy). "From the earliest days of Google, whenever Larry and I sought inspiration for vision and leadership, we needed to look no farther than Cupertino," wrote Sergey Brin after hearing that Steve Jobs died.


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