Newspaper article International New York Times

A Leader Who Has Users in Mind

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Leader Who Has Users in Mind

Article excerpt

Sundar Pichai, the newly appointed chief executive, owes his new job to his success in making Google products easier to use and thus more popular.

The technology industry is partial to dramatic, sometimes blustery, often larger-than-life top executives. Sundar Pichai will have to work hard to be ranked among that colorful crew. He sent news of his ascension to the top slot at Google -- he is just the third person to officially run the search company -- on Twitter, very obliquely.

"Thanks," he replied on Monday to two people who had congratulated him. And that was it.

One of those messages on Twitter, from the former Facebook executive Bret Taylor, was rather understated itself. "One of the most capable technology leaders I have worked with," Mr. Taylor called Mr. Pichai. That is a clue to more than the personality of Google's new leader. It is also what he wants the technology to be: a servant perfectly attuned to the user's needs at the moment.

"I would love for my phone to scream if I am about to miss an important thing in my life, and never bother me if I'm doing something very important and the information coming in is less important than what I'm doing," Mr. Pichai said in an interview. "That's how I think about it. To me it's about serving users the right way, and as part of that, sometimes you need to disappear and get out of the way."

Mr. Pichai, 43, owes his new job to his success in making Google products easier to use and thus more popular.

He joined the company in 2004 and made a name for himself early as a product manager, working on high-profile efforts like Chrome, the company's web browser. Chrome grew like a weed, exploding from a single-digit percentage of market share to become the most widely used browser across desktops and mobile devices in the world, according to StatCounter.

Two years ago, the chief executive, Larry Page, promoted Mr. Pichai to also oversee Android, the software that runs 78 percent of the smartphones sold around the globe.

"Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use -- and he loves a big bet," Mr. Page wrote. "Take Chrome, for example. …

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