Fortune's Fred Vogelstein has peered behind the cute colored balls that Google's marketing department uses to ward away skeptics, and uncovered a company in disarray. Vogelstein pins the blame on "imported grownup" Eric Schmidt for failing to bring the juvenile company culture into focus. No one pays any attention at meetings, because they're fiddling with their toys, reports Vogelstein.
It was too chaotic for Bill Joy, the brightest of several luminaries who talked about working at the secretive advertising broker, only to walk away. Veritas CFO Ed Gilles was in line for the same post at Google, but found the company "out of control," according to Fortune.
"No one can figure out who's in charge or even what Google's licensing policy is," says a business partner.
Thirty per cent of Google's thousand plus employees are contractors, the bottom of what Vogelstein describes as "a caste system". The contractors don't have access to the Waiters on Wheels vouchers for fathers on paternity leave, or any stock options.
So in one way, Google is already set up for the ruthless labor policies that Wall Street likes. Its decision to pursue an aggressive patent policy is another corporate trait that should stand it in good stead with the markets. (And its notorious secrecy - well known to regular Register readers - is another characteristic that should help keep it out of trouble more often than not. That said, Google's reluctance to write anything down can cause self-inflicted wounds - the PR disaster that has arisen from the company refusing to produce a public written policy for Google News has been entirely self-inflicted.)
The Fortune article does credit Schmidt with creating the products from which Google now draws its profits: $350 million on an annualized turnover of $900 million, the magazine reckons. Before Schmidt came along the company bumbled along without a clear idea money-spinner. Schmidt transformed Google into an advertising broker.
Alas there's no space to discuss the fate of Google's marque search engine, which since the explosion of revenue from Adwords and Adsense this year has taken a beating: Google is fighting a losing battle to preserve the integrity of its search results. (You can however, now watch baseball in London again). Whether it wins the war, or even wants to, is another question. As we've noted here before, the search engine doesn't really matter commercially to Google. It's not impossible to imagine the day, several years hence, when besieged by pernickity regulators, Google dispenses with it altogether.
There is no 'search engine business'. ®