Co-founder Page returns to Google helm

Google co-founder Larry Page today takes back the reins of the internet powerhouse that he and Sergey Brin created as Stanford University students some 13 years ago.

Page is expected to bring an entrepreneurial spirit and a computer engineer's intensity to the chief executive position being ceded by Eric Schmidt, who helped turn Google into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

"I get the impression that Larry Page is going to be more hands-on," technology analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies told AFP.

"Especially with mobile," he said. "Mobile is key to Google's future."

Bajarin said he believes Page was behind recent moves to make it easier for developers to design hip, fun, or functional applications for smartphones and tablet computers powered by Google-backed Android software.

Google makes Android available for free to device makers to use and modify as it seeks to compete in the fast-growing smartphone and tablet arena with Apple, maker of the iPad and iPhone.

"When Larry is in charge of the total strategy, he has to be able to look at it in terms of devices that are going to connect to the internet," Bajarin said. "Everything is pointing to mobile being the dominant platform."

Brin, who along with Page and Schmidt has led the "triumvirate" at the helm of the internet search titan, is going to be responsible for strategic projects and new products in the new management structure.

Schmidt, 55, a former chief executive of Novell, is to remain with Google as executive chairman, focusing on deals, partnerships, customers and government outreach.

Schmidt replaced Page as chief executive in August 2001 to provide "parental supervision" at the company the college pals launched just three years earlier. In recent years, Page has headed Google's product development while helping with day-to-day operations.

"To some degree, Eric's heart has been much more toward the structure side of the business as opposed to the entrepreneurial side," Bajarin said.

"If you can get back to an entrepreneurial management approach, that allows for more innovation," he said. "That gives Larry a foot up in this particular case."

Schmidt will also continue to serve as an adviser to Brin, 37, and Page, who turned 38 last week.

Google has grown over the past decade from a startup battling other internet search engines into a technology giant with nearly 25,000 employees and annual revenue of nearly $30 billion.

Google continues to dominate the internet search market but has been coming under pressure from social networking rivals such as Facebook and Twitter.

Silicon Valley will be watching to see how the famously aloof Page handles being the public face of the Mountain View, California-based colossus.

"I think it's fair to say that Larry Page will not be a conventional CEO - he's not been much of a public figure for the past 10 years," John Battelle, author of a book about Google and technology rivals, said in a blog post when Page's return as CEO was announced in January.

"It will be interesting to see if that changes, or if Page chafes at the relentless public demands of running a massively scrutinised public company."

Schmidt, explaining in January why he was stepping aside for Page, said it was an attempt to "simplify our management structure and speed up decision making."

Page was "ready to lead," Schmidt said, adding that he anticipated working "for a long time to come" with the two Google co-founders.

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