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商业 - 科技

一位印度裔中层经理如何火箭般晋升为谷歌二号人物

Miguel Helft 2014年10月30日

6年前,桑德尔•皮查伊还仅仅是谷歌公司几十位中层管理者中的一员。现如今,他已经成为仅次于CEO拉里•佩奇的二号人物。那么,这位原本籍籍无名、说话轻声慢语的印度裔工程师究竟有什么本事,能够让他在人才济济的谷歌公司扶摇直上?

    当谷歌(Google)在2008年劳动节那天宣布该公司将推出一款网页浏览器时,很少有人意识到,这场发布会在某种程度上也成了桑德尔•皮查伊的亮相会,将这个籍籍无名、说话轻声软语的中层经理从幕后推到台前。从那场发布会的过程看,恐怕没有人会料到,在6年后的今天,皮查伊会登上今天这个高度——在上周末的一场管理层地震后,皮查伊显然已经成为谷歌公司仅次于CEO拉里•佩奇的二号人物。

    实际上,Chrome浏览器的发布会最终演变为一场灾难。谷歌在幕后做了大量准备工作,希望捧出一场媒体盛宴。它还准备了一些发言要点,以解释为什么要重新点燃与微软(Microsoft)的浏览器大战,以及为什么它的昔日盟友——火狐浏览器(Firefox)的制造商Mozilla不必担心。谷歌还秘密准备了一份详尽的、长达38页的插图手册,用来解释Chrome浏览器的独特功能。谷歌安排在那个周二把它发送到与会记者和博主的电子邮箱里。这样一来,参加完三天活动的与会者们刚刚踏进家门,就能收到谷歌发来的图文并茂的Chrome指南。

    但是这本小册子却意外地于星期一率先登陆德国,而那天德国并不放假。当一位德国博主将这本小册子上传到网上之后,Chrome团队只得手忙脚乱地处理这个意外。包括皮查伊的上司玛丽莎•梅耶尔在内的一众谷歌高管,都被召集到谷歌总部开会。经过快速但激烈的讨论,谷歌高层决定提前一天发布声明。为了让用户能够及时地从谷歌数据中心下载Chrome,工程师们开始火急火燎地做各种准备工作,公关部门也开始一个一个地给记者们打电话——其中大多数人那天还在休假。

    虽然这段小插曲有些尴尬,但它很快就被人忘掉了。尽管当时很多人怀疑Chrome能否挑战当时的主流浏览器——IE和火狐,但是Chrome的确很快火了起来。据StatCounter统计,Chrome现在已成为全球第一大浏览器,其市场份额已经超过了IE的两倍。Chrome的成功也为一系列具有重要战略意义的产品铺平了道路,其中包括Chrome OS操作系统、Chromebook笔记本电脑和Chromecast电视棒等。同时它的成功也令皮查伊在谷歌扶摇直上,成为科技行业中晋升最快的新锐人物之一。

    实际上,皮查伊此前担任产品管理总监时,就已经凭借一个不起眼但非常重要的工具在谷歌内部扬名立万了,它就是谷歌工具栏。谷歌工具栏之所以重要,是因为它帮助谷歌使其搜索引擎成为IE和火狐浏览器的默认设置。皮查伊负责这款产品时成功抵抗了来自微软的攻击,从而巩固了他在公司的地位。《财富》今年年初的一篇文章《Chrome时代的开始》这样写道:

    “Chrome有另一个不太广为人知的任务:保护谷歌的搜索引擎,因为它贡献了谷歌2013年598亿美元营收和129亿美元利润的大部分。从2000年以来,谷歌大范围推广它的浏览器工具栏,从而使其搜索引擎成为IE和火狐浏览器的默认设置。(该工具栏也使谷歌得以追踪用户的‘浏览习惯’。)”

    When Google announced that it had built a Web browser on Labor Day in 2008, the event represented something of a coming out party for SundarPichai, a little-known and soft-spoken middle manager at the company. Based on how the launch went, no one would have predicted that six years later, Pichai would be where is today—a clear No. 2 to CEO Larry Page following a management shakeup late last week.

    Indeed, the launch of the Chrome browser was something of a debacle. Google GOOG 0.18% had worked hard behind the scenes to orchestrate a media splash. It had readied talking points to explain why it was reigniting a browser war with Microsoft MSFT -0.48% , and why its erstwhile ally, Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, shouldn’t worry. As part of it, the company had secretly produced an elaborate, 38-page comic book that explained the unique features of Google’s browser. It was expected to land in the mailboxes of journalists and bloggers on that Tuesday just as they returned from the three-day weekend.

    But the comic books arrived in Germany on Monday, and it was not a holiday there. After a German blogger posted the comic book online, the Chrome team had to scramble to handle the fiasco. Top executives, including Pichai’s boss at the time, Marissa Mayer, were summoned to the Googleplex. After quick but spirited debate, the team decided to move up the announcement by a day. As engineers scrambled to make Chrome available for download from Google’s network of data centers, public relations staff started to alert reporters—most of whom where on holiday—one by one.

    Embarrassing as it was, the snafu was quickly forgotten. Chrome, which launched amid skepticism that it could make inroads against the dominant browsers of the time, Internet Explorer and Firefox, became a runaway hit. It is now the No. 1 browser in the world, with a market share that’s more than twice that of the once dominant Internet Explorer, according to StatCounter. Its success paved the way for a series of related strategically important products including Chrome OS, Chromebooks, and Chromecast. And it became the engine that powered Pichai through one of the fastest corporate ascents in the technology industry.

    Inside Google, however, Pichai had already made his mark as a director of product management for an obscure but important weapon in the company’s arsenal: the Google toolbar. The toolbar was critical because it helped Google make its search engine the default option on IE and Firefox. And Pichai’s role in leading the product as it came under attack from Microsoft, helped cement his standing in the company, as detailed in a Fortune story titled The Dawn of the Chrome Age earlier this year:

    “Chrome had another, less public mission: to defend the search engine that accounts for most of Google’s $59.8 billion in 2013 revenues and $12.9 billion in profits. Since 2000, Google had distributed a browser toolbar that made its search engine the default on IE and Firefox. (The toolbar also allowed Google to track users’ surfing habits.)”

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