With Larry Page and Sergey Brin Gone, Alphabet’s Problems Are Sundar Pichai’s Problems Now

December 5, 2019, 2:32 PM UTC

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Upon learning of the retirement of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two multi-billionaire 40-something-year-olds, my first reaction was a shrug. Brin has focused on eccentric pursuits at Google for years. Page once was the more Gatesian of the duo; he had relinquished the CEO job to Eric Schmidt only to snatch it back again. But then, in 2015, he mostly gave it up a second time, delegating oversight of the money-making part of his empire to Sundar Pichai.

In other words, ho-hum. “Larry and Sergey” have grown accustomed to having someone else do the heavy lifting. Stepping back from operational roles of Google’s parent company, which they still control, felt like a formality.

The more I thought about it, though, the more significant the move felt. The Alphabet structure of the last four years served two functions. It separated bold if costly pursuits like Waymo and Calico and Verily so that the executives who run Google could focus on the ads business. It also gave investors the opportunity to segregate their thinking about Google’s pursuits. Moonshots were one thing; cash-gushing businesses were another. The conventional wisdom was that Alphabet’s “other bets” were the co-founders’ preserve. So long as Google grew profitably, they wouldn’t be messed with.

None of that will change quickly. And yet you can see how Page and Brin stepping back makes all sorts of things possible. Far-out ideas like drone delivery and balloon-borne Internet service are Pichai’s problems now. Should he want to make a change, it’ll be that much easier without Page and Brin directly involved.

And changes will come. Google’s business isn’t growing the way it did. So it’s ramping up new growth categories, like its own online travel business. That has slapped the likes of Expedia, whose CEO exited Wednesday.

Adam Lashinsky

Twitter: @adamlashinsky

Email: adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


No more worlds to conquer. The antitrust probe of Amazon has expanded from focusing solely on the company's e-commerce business to include its cloud computing unit, Bloomberg reports. Amazon Web Services captures about half of the market, with Microsoft a distant second at 16%, according to Gartner.

Trailing the pack. Shares of smart exercise equipment maker Peloton bonked on Tuesday and Wednesday, falling almost 11%, seemingly in reaction to the backlash against one of the company's recent ads. The month-old ad that went viral lately tells the story of a woman, "Grace in Boston," who is given a Peloton by her male significant other.

Down but not out. Elsewhere on Wall Street, shares of work messaging service Slack Technologies benefitted from strong quarterly results. Revenue jumped 60% in the third quarter to $169 million, better than analysts expected. Slack shares, previously down 23% since its June IPO, gained 4% in pre-market trading on Thursday.

Down and out. Luxury automaker BMW dropped its plan to charge customers a recurring annual fee of $80 to access Apple's CarPlay software in their vehicles. "BMW is always looking to satisfy our customers' needs and this policy change is intended to provide BMW owners with a better ownership experience," the company explained.

We had to make an oil painting. An investigation by the Federal Communications Commission released on Wednesday found that Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular exaggerated the extent of their 4G LTE coverage on maps filed with the commission. The commission won't be fining or otherwise punishing the carriers for the inaccurate filings, however.


In this season of holiday shopping, more people are thinking about gifting "experiences" over stuff. Airbnb has hopped on the trend, with its "Experiences" segment now offering more than 40,000 activities for customers in addition to its typical lodgings listings. It's not easy for hosts to get their concepts for new experience tours listed, however, as writer Deanna Ting explores in a piece for Eater.

Most hosts who apply don’t hear back from Airbnb until at least two to three months after they’ve formally applied. Jo Mae “Jumi” Oraa and Greg Gouras, who take people on moonlit missions to find the best street food in Queens, say it took them at least three months to get their application approved as Airbnb Experiences hosts.

Saint Olive’s original application to be an Experiences host was rejected, but her persistence paid off; a few months later, she reapplied, and this time, the Airbnb Experiences team in Paris contacted her immediately.


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I enjoy driving but not nearly as much as Blue Label Labs COO Jordan Gurrieri. He's not only zooming his 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata around tight corners at a local track, but he's also recording all the action with various apps. In a blog post this week, Gurrieri offers his picks for the best driving apps, including programs to help you coordinate road trips with friends, avoid speed traps, and, of course, his favorite racing games. Give it a whirl.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman

Email: aaron.pressman@fortune.com

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