Google’s Eric Schmidt delivered a bit of stunning news last week, announcing he would be stepping down as Google’s CEO in favor of Google founder Larry Page. Although Schmidt would be staying on board as Executive Chairman of the company, many industry insiders saw the move as the beginning of Schmidt’s way out the door: maybe he would go on to another company, enterprise, or non-profit efforts, but speculation centered on Google wanting to get away from the increasingly “creepy” spin some of Schmidt’s comments had put on the company.
Now, however, Schmidt says he truly has no plans to leave Google. At the DLD media conference in Munich, Schmidt indicated he is looking forward to his “next decade at Google,” and will be primarily be focusing on business deals and outreach to governments in his new role as executive chairman.
Schmidt’s comments also indicate his role will include some management of Google’s public image—which, while arguably bolstered by the company’s decision to withdraw from the Chinese market, has also seen its “don’t be evil” mantra soiled by Schmidt’s own public comments. On a CNN program in October, Schmidt suggested people who weren’t happy having their homes and workplaces should “just move;” in December, Schmidt suggested on CNBC if people are doing something they don’t want online they “shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Schmidt has also suggested adults ought to be allowed a name change to get away from any online records of their youthful indiscretions.
Google has also raised eyebrows among investors by indicating it intends to hire more people during 2011 than it did during 2007, when it added some 6,131 employees. Although investors are generally wary of rapid increases in headcount—since employees and their benefits can be major drags on a company’s earnings—Google executives have indicated that the company needs to recruit and hire talented engineers. And while Google does risk losing employees to hot companies like Facebook and Apple, Schmidt downplayed the risks, saying that the company has had the same employee retention and turnover numbers for the last seven years.