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Google just made a huge company shakeup. Here's who's gaining power.

Hugh Langley   

Google just made a huge company shakeup. Here's who's gaining power.
  • Google is merging more parts of the company in an effort to move faster in AI.
  • Google's DeepMind chief has gained more power, while the head of Pixel will also oversee Android.

The Googleplex is in flux.

CEO Sundar Pichai announced a series of re-orgs in a memo to staff on Thursday, and — surprise, surprise — Google says it's all happening because of artificial intelligence.

Pichai said the changes, which include merging different parts of the company, would help Google "simplify decisions" and move faster.

This includes further merging its central AI teams. Last year, Google combined Brain, a group that sat within its AI Research group, with DeepMind to form a new super-unit that would be laser-focused on building AI models.

On Thursday, Pichai said that teams within Research that work on building AI models will also merge with Google DeepMind. The Responsible AI teams, which develop rules for safely and ethically developing AI, will also move from Research to Google DeepMind, he said.

All told, it gives more control to Demis Hassabis, who leads Google DeepMind. Before last year's merger, Hassabis ran DeepMind at arm's length from Google — a distance he had long fought to maintain — and now he is front and center of the company's AI push.

Hassabis has quickly become Google's MVP, with his unit developing AI models such as Gemini that are helping the company compete with OpenAI and other encroaching competitors. He's also helping turn those models into products.

Interestingly, Pichai said this change should help by "concentrating compute-intensive model building in one place." That may also help with a problem that has been getting worse inside Google for a while: the fight for computing resources.

Google's Pixel chief also gains more power

Google is also merging two of its large product units together. The devices and services group, which oversees hardware products such as the Pixel devices and Fitbit wearables, will merge with the part of the business that runs Android and Chrome.

That's big: these are two huge organizations that are now being pulled together under the banner of "Platforms and Devices." Rick Osterloh, who previously oversaw hardware, will oversee both groups. Hiroshi Lockheimer, who ran the Android and Chrome group, will remain at Google but run other projects across the company, Pichai said.

Sameer Samat has also been promoted to "President of Android Ecosystems" and will work with all of Google's Android partners. He'll be crucial in maintaining the firewall between the Pixel and Android groups, which has long served as a way not to let Google give its hardware special treatment over rivals (a firewall Osterloh promised The Verge would remain in place).

Expect more restructuring to come as Google continues to reshape itself around AI.

On Wednesday, Google's finance chief Ruth Porat informed staff in the finance group that there would be a reorg resulting in some job cuts, BI first reported. Porat said the changes were being made as the company realigns its priorities around AI, per an employee who saw the memo.

Are you a current or former Google employee with insight to share? Reach this reporter securely on Signal (628-228-1836).

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