Google has confirmed that Marissa Mayer, who has overseen the company's search products for years, has been given a new assignment, managing the company's geo/local products.
Because Google still depends on search for the bulk of its revenue, Mayer's shift away from search has been characterized by some observers as a demotion. But there are other ways to read the tea leaves.
While Mayer's new responsibilities have not been made clear, she has been made a member of Google's operating committee, which sets corporate policy on major issues. That's clearly a step up.
Then there's Google's public statement about Mayer's revised responsibilities: "Marissa is moving over to an exciting new role covering geo/local, which is crucial to our users and the future of Google," said a Google spokesperson in an e-mailed statement.
Read that again: Geo/local is crucial to Google users and to Google itself. This is not being promoted out of harm's way to head up some backwater project as a prelude to retirement; this is a major movement of troops in advance of a significant campaign.
Search remains Google's core competency and Mayer's successor, Udi Manber, VP of engineering at Google, certainly has the pedigree to advance Google's search capabilities. But the future belongs to mobile phones and technology that's relevant to those devices, specifically geo/local products.
In a blog post expressing skepticism about suggestions that Mayer has been demoted, veteran Google watcher and author John Battelle observes that Mayer's new role is a big deal. "Location is a key factor in the future of search, social, commerce, and media, among a lot of other things," he wrote.