Why is Marissa Mayer, Google's athletically inept cupcake princess, going on such a publicity tour of late? She was in the Times Sunday. Last night, she hit Charlie Rose to make excuses for not innovating.
Mayer is in charge of Google's core search engine, which was famed for its incredibly rapid innovation ten years ago. But now? The 20,000-person Internet conglomerate has become as glacial in its development as Microsoft or IBM. For example: When will be able to search the words spoken in YouTube videos? "Five years, maybe ten," says Mayer. And searching images? "Ten years, maybe fifteen." When did Google become a company where that pace of invention was tolerable? Perhaps around the same time Mayer started dabbling dilletantishly at cross-country skiing and marathon running, where she's consistently placed in the back fo the pack.
And yet Mayer is pityingly dismissive of Google's main competition, Yahoo, saying they've "lost a lot of good people." When Rose presses on whether she'd want to see Microsoft buy Yahoo — a move which would arguably strengthen the combined entity's search market share, she demurs. "We really think an independent Yahoo's better for the Web," says Mayer. Translation: She wants a Yahoo that's providing just enough competition to keep Washington's antitrust cops off of Google's back — but not enough that Google might have to innovate at a pace faster than 10, maybe 15 years.