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Google Turns the Page

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Google's (GOOG - Get Report) CEO reshuffle, completed Monday, could herald a new era of innovation at the Googleplex, as geeky co-founder Larry Page takes the company's reins from Eric Schmidt.

"I think it's a little too early to tell, but there might be a lot more focus on innovation with a technology products guy at the helm," said Yun Kim, an analyst at Gleacher & Company. "I think that things will be focused on product introductions."

Hired in 2001 to provide a mature foil to Page and his youthful co-founder Sergey Brin, Schmidt oversaw an eventful decade during his tenure as CEO. The former Novell chief guided the Internet giant through its 2004 IPO, was at the forefront of its censorship battles in China and managed the firm's push into mobile with its Android operating system.

Google's stock rose more than 440% during the Schmidt era. More recently, however, the search giant's stock has barely moved -- shares are up just 3% over the past 12 months.

Page, the big-vision guy known to push initiatives like attempting to digitize all the world's books, must win back Google's trailblazer status.

"I think that over the last year or so, they have lost a step in how people perceive them to be an innovator," said Charles King, president and principal analyst of Pund-IT Research. "For example, they have been behind the curve in social networking."

While nimbler Facebook and Twitter have racked up more than 500 million and 175 million users respectively, Google is playing serious catch-up. The Silicon Valley heavyweight has struggled to generate significant consumer interest via its Google Buzz, a service that lets users share photos, videos and updates.

King expects to see Google sharpen its focus around new and emerging technologies, specifically in mobile devices and analytical tools. "There's a ton of places where Google could be a formidable player," he said. "I would expect that with Page's return as CEO, Google will be looking further afield for the next big thing."

On the mobility side, King expects to see Google use its Android OS and search engine to provide a host of location-based advertising, reviews and recommendations directly to users' smartphones and tablets. In this way, consumers could quickly trawl through Google's vast troves of data while searching for a specific restaurant on, say, the streets of their locale.

The analyst also sees a huge market opportunity for Google in providing cloud-based analytic services to small businesses, which would offer highly-focused search results based around industries, products and services.

Opening up new revenue streams will be key; Google currently generates around 90% of its revenue from its core search business. One new front Google seems to be hitting hard is mobile payments. The company is reportedly working with MasterCard (MA), Citigroup (C) and VeriFone (PAY) to enable consumers to pay for purchases via their Android devices. For Google, the move would help advertisers more effectively target consumers and allow merchants to push coupons and loyalty schemes to customers.
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