Executive shake-up at Google on heels of 'stellar year'

Google Inc.’s (GOOG) latest earnings were overshadowed by an executive shake-up at the highest level of the company. Eric Schmidt is stepping down as CEO on April 4 to take on the title of executive chairman where he will focus on external deals, partnerships and government outreach. Co-founder Larry Page will take over as CEO to lead product development and technology strategy while co-founder Sergey Brin will focus on strategic projects, particularly new products.

“There’s really no one else in the universe that could have accomplished what Eric (Schmidt) has done,” Page said during the earnings call. Leading into the earnings news, CFO Patrick Pichette described it as a “phenomenal ending to a very incredible year at Google.” The company reported $2.54 billion in net income on $8.44 billion in revenue for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2010. On the mobile front, Google continues to see momentum grow. Search inquiries from Android devices have increased tenfold from the year-ago period, said Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of product. He added that there are many indications that 2011 will finally become the year that mobile phones play a big role in commerce. Part of that is because “it’s become easier for us to know where you are,” Rosenberg said. “Because smart phones have been deployed more rapidly, we can supply you information about the places you are near with contextual results.” Smart phone use in particular is much more track-able and valuable, he added. “There’s no doubt that this market is absolutely cranking,” Nikesh Arora, SVP and chief business officer, said of mobile. “Ad formats are still nascent and building.” Nonetheless, as an example, Rosenberg pointed out that click-to-call ads are already generating millions of calls every month. Summarizing Google’s “stellar year,” as he put it, Schmidt said Google’s “strong performance has been driven by a rapidly growing digital economy, continuous product innovation that benefits both users and advertisers, and by the extraordinary momentum of our newer businesses, such as display and mobile.”

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