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4/5/2012
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Google CEO Larry Page Touts First-Year Accomplishments

Google boss also justifies the hard choices he had to make to keep the company focused.

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Google CEO Larry Page on Thursday published an open letter revisiting his accomplishments during his first year as CEO and explaining some of the rationale behind his actions. His "2012 Update from the CEO" offers little in the way of surprises and only briefly touches on the major controversies that have arisen during his time as Google's chief executive.

"Last April, I began by reorganizing the management team around our core products to improve responsibility and accountability across Google," Page wrote. "I also kicked off a big clean-up. Google has so many opportunities that, unless we make some hard choices, we end up spreading ourselves too thin and don't have the impact we want."

Some of those choices, like closing or combining more than 30 products, may not have been welcomed by everyone, but they're certainly defensible from a business standpoint. Likewise, Page's Google-wide makeover--"a cleaner, more consistent, and beautiful look," as he put it--was bound to elicit complaints, but aesthetic changes will never please everyone.

Page addresses the most significant controversies of his first year--the integration of Google+ into search results and the unification of most of Google's products under a single privacy policy--by insisting the company can make money without being evil.

[ Read Google Demos Its Augmented Reality Glasses. ]

Discovering previously unrecognized equivalency between the terms "criticism" and "interest," Page observed, "The recent changes we made to our privacy policies generated a lot of interest. But they will enable us to create a much better, more intuitive experience across Google--our key focus for the year."

Citing famed inventor Nikola Tesla's inability to monetize his inventions, Page insists that better ads--the kind that arise from the sort of cross-service behavioral profiling that Google wants to do--are better for everyone.

Page also sees the data Google now has access to through its effort to make its products social--data about identity and relationships--as a something that will help improve search.

At one point, Page does acknowledge that Google makes mistakes and insists the company tries to fix them and change things if necessary. "And we work hard to explain what we are doing--and why--because with size comes responsibility," he said. Yet the example he cites as controversial, the company's visual refresh, hardly seems worth mentioning in light of more substantive issues related to privacy and competition that critics have raised.

Repeating Google's incantation against anti-trust action--"competition is only a click away"--Page insists that Google wants to be "a company deserving of great love," even as he acknowledges the ambition of that goal "because most large companies are not well-loved, or even seemingly set up with that in mind." Great products and a great user experience, he suggests, will win user affection.

Perhaps Page's most striking statement is his defense of YouTube. "In 2006, when Google acquired YouTube, we faced a lot of skepticism," he wrote. "Today, YouTube has over 800 million monthly users uploading over an hour of video per second."

Page makes no mention of the persistence of that skepticism: The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City on Thursday reversed a lower court ruling that threw out Viacom's five-year-old $1 billion copyright infringement claim against YouTube. Google thus will have to defend itself in court and could be liable for damages.

As is the case in Oracle's Android lawsuit, any potential judgement against Google, if it comes to that, isn't likely to be as much as was initially sought. But a loss would make it that much harder for Google to distance itself from evil, at least as far as supporters of current copyright laws are concerned.

Page concludes on an optimistic note, observing that, "Things we used to think were magic, we now take for granted" and that "the opportunities are greater than ever."

Soon, you too will be able to see the world through Google's augmented reality glasses.

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