I’ve been thinking a lot about the Alphabet-Google (my colleague Kyle Wiggers prefers “Googlebet”) news this week. Why has it been so difficult to come up with a whole lot to say? It finally dawned on me last night: there isn’t much to say. That’s the point. This wasn’t a CEO shakeup. This has all been a long time coming.
In August 2015, Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin formed Alphabet, a new umbrella company that includes Google. Page became CEO of Alphabet, Brin took on the role of president, and they named Sundar Pichai as CEO of Google. This week, Page and Brin stepped down, leaving Sundar Pichai as CEO of Google and CEO of Alphabet. (The cofounders still hold board seats and a majority of voting power.)
When a company appoints a new CEO, there’s a scramble to find out what will be different. This is especially true when the decision appears to be made out of the blue. Maybe there’s a takeover acquisition, the CEO is fired, or even dies unexpectedly. This is not one of those times.
This was just a very drawn-out changing of the guard. Instead of appointing Pichai as CEO of Google back in 2015, Page and Brin created a holding company so they could make crazy bets in an official capacity. It turns out they wanted to make crazy bets in an unofficial capacity, too. Four years later, they’ve put Pichai in charge of their crazy bets as well.
More of the same
Pichai has been running Google for more than four years now. We thus have plenty to draw on. This change didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, over the last two years all the way up to this week we’ve seen a few changes that tell us exactly what will happen at Alphabet. In February 2018, Nest left Alphabet for Google’s hardware team. In June 2019, Chronicle left Alphabet for Google Cloud (more on how that’s going here).
Keep in mind that Alphabet never filled out the 26 spots of the alphabet. Currently it’s halfway there, plus the original Google. Here are the 13 other companies under the Alphabet umbrella: Calico, CapitalG, DeepMind, GV, Google Fiber, Jigsaw, Loon, Makani, Sidewalk Labs, Verily, Waymo, Wing, and X. (The oldest, DeepMind, celebrated 10 years this week).
Looks like Google Fiber is sticking around under the Alphabet change, at least for now. Remember, all of Google’s businesses benefit from you having faster internet, everything from YouTube and search/Assistant to bigger bets like DeepMind and Stadia https://t.co/YE9LoRpoK1
— Emil Protalinski (@EPro) December 4, 2019
Additionally, this week we saw Google Fiber cutting its 100Mbps plan and doubling down on its 1Gbps plan and Waymo outlining its plans for 2020. So we know Google Fiber and Waymo are sticking around, just with more focus.
Expect growth from @Waymo next year, but very slow. “When we think about Waymo One in 2020, our main focus will be responsibly ramping up our driverless offering to more and more riders in Phoenix across both our early rider program and public service.”
— Emil Protalinski (@EPro) December 5, 2019
All of this has been happening with Brin, Page, and Pichai in alignment. Again, this CEO transition wasn’t made overnight — it’s been in the works for months, if not years. Pichai is running the show, but Brin and Page are still around, pulling the strings if they need to.
I don’t know if the Alphabet structure will remain for four more years. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Pichai was already leading Googlebet.
Going forward, we’ll see more of the same. Pichai will ensure Alphabet companies will either become more focused or get folded into Google. Maybe Google will even get some new sister companies. Just don’t expect a whole alphabet’s worth.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.