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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.


  1. I can't deny that Google needed to become more focused and they certainly need more cohesion and consistency in their UI, but Google is not Apple and they shouldn't try to become Apple.

    For example, I believe that some of the success of Android and the initial traction of G+ comes from an enormous community of developers and enthusiasts who 'love' Google and their products. If Google were to become too much like Apple it would be throwing this away.

  2. wow, it just show how Stevie had an impact to our daily life through Google :-) it just not about apple...
    RIP dear stevie

  3. Apple is successful because it maintains focus and control by keeping everything proprietary. While this results in excellent products, they are not products I use because I prefer openness, even if the quality is not as stellar. Google, on the other hand, has managed to create great products in a very open way attracting people who value quality as well as people who value openness (such as myself).
    I hope that Google does not focus too much to gain a little extra quality at the expense of openness.

  4. I don't agree; I think that being focused and being cohesive are two different things. A lot of products that google dismissed(es) had the fault of not being cohesive (integrated)and left to linger untended to; they did not have the fault of detracting from focus, the only way they detracted from focus was because they were not integrated properly, in my opinion,in fact, if these products were integrated better (made cohesive) the user experience would benefit and increase considerably...

  5. I agree with Tom and disagree with Ionut.

    Google has the ability to integrate any product into any Google product. (For eg blogger with Google+). If they are interested, they would do it.

    But if they really want to wind down some product, not because it is useless, but bcoz it doesnt earn money for them, Google will use endless amounts of positive statements and plans (even the death of a person) to justify their Evil Business.

    (Google Desktop - R.I.P.)

  6. Concentrate on 5 products? that's impossible. Ok, lets count: Search, Google+, Gmail, Docs, Blogger, Youtube, Android, Chrome, Maps, Books, (Translate, Chrome OS, Calendar, Reader).

    That's more than the count.. We dont just love 5 products of u google, may be that's why u merge all we love into one giant GOOGLE+... This doesn't seem right to me..

  7. 5 products is easy:

    Apps (including Gmail, Docs, Calendar, etc)

    Everything else (Earth/Maps, Books, Translate, needs to become nothing more but a service used by one of the Big 5).

  8. steve job is an awesome man.. even bill gates cant beat him... imagine if this man is in google... i can see more robust search engine and apple like interface :-)

  9. Google are hughe and apple are impressive, this is a good move

  10. steve jobs is a hero in the world of information technology, he who has changed the world with his work, hopefully someone like him in the future

  11. no offense meant to this great man, this genius Steve Jobs, but in the industry he has always been known as an asshole, which is a necessary qualification to be a successful entrepeneur -- while Apple has had a loyal following since its original Apple II computers, it has also alienated at least half of the user community, half of the developer community, and botched many opportunities it had and threw away... if Google wants to follow in those footsteps and end up a second-rate Apple wannabe, i say good riddance... HP pissed away their customer base, Netflix pissed away its customer base, now Google is doing the same... if you have a goose laying gold eggs, some people just can't help themselves and wanna screw with it and hack it to pieces

  12. If we can still have Gmail Labs and Maps Labs, then why not also Search Labs and Ad Labs and Android Labs?

    While I never even heard of Google Squared during its lifetime, I appreciated the instant-answer feature in normal search results, and would have liked to see that part of Squared continue to evolve (possibly into the same sort of semantic search that Wolfram Alpha tries to be). I agree that experiments are better in the framework of an existing product, but if Google's going to go that route, they need a Labs for *every* product.

  13. Absolutely,Steve Jobs is a great man!

  14. That's why Steve Jobs is considered as an inspiring man and even CEO of Google asked his advice. The fact right now is Apple become well-known with its product quality from notebooks, pcs, tablets to smartphones.. Thanks Jobs for your great works..