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Tickers in this Article: GOOG, EBAY, YHOO, AMZN, MS
Google's (Nasdaq:GOOG) strong fourth quarter earnings were overshadowed by the announcement that company co-founder, Larry Page, will be taking over for Eric Schmidt as CEO. Meanwhile, profits continued to soar.

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Surprise Shake-Up
Google co-founder Larry Page, 37, is taking the top job at the company once again. Page, along with co-founder Sergey Brin, had been running the company ten years ago when investors brought in Eric Schmidt, now 55, to bring in more experienced leadership. Although Schmidt became CEO, he, Page and Brin ran Google as a collaborative threesome, which they'll still do. The change in roles should streamline and speed up decision-making. Schmidt's tenure leading the company included steering the company through its public offering, and overseeing its tremendous financial results.

Earnings Abound
Almost lost in the management story were the impressive results of Google's fourth quarter. Google earned $7.81 a share, or a profit of $2.5 billion, up from $6.13 or $2 billion in the quarter a year ago. Excluding stock compensation, EPS was $8.75 compared. The numbers handily beat Wall Street estimates.

The digital economy continues to grow, which pushed revenue up to $8.44 billion from $6.67 billion a year ago. Subtracting paid ad commissions, revenue increased to $6.37 billion, well ahead of expectations. Strong ecommerce, with this year's strong online holiday shopping, helped Google's revenue.

Search ads, still Google's main source of revenue, which managed to increase market share at the expense of other competitor sites. While observers have worried about slowing growth for search ad revenues, Google's performance remains solid.

Are Expectations Too High For Google?
The market sometimes has extreme demands for its leaders. eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY), which reported a good earnings quarter, saw its stock pushed up, though it's probable that the market will demand more from Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN). It's in the nature of things. Yahoo! (Nasdaq:YHOO), even though it's increased its Asian assets, was downgraded by Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS). There's always something to be nervous about in the rapidly-changing, highly competitive digital landscape for any investors.

Next For Google
While there has been much speculation about the reasons for Schmidt stepping down and Page stepping up, the management story that eclipsed the earnings story has observers looking back too much, not forward enough. Where Google is going is more important than the whys of the shakeup. Whether Schmidt was stretched thin, tired of dealing with the media, or whether Page and Brin were possibly frustrated with Schmidt - which seemed unlikely, as Page praised Schmidt - is less an issue than what Google's direction is now. Schmidt and the troika will still be in place.

Google's Direction
Schmidt has been the deal-maker with many acquisitions, and you can expect for this to continue. The company has also evolved, and it continues to move beyond search. It's gone into display, mobile with Android and still has designs to do something in response to Facebook, or even unrelated areas. Google's change of command may be less of a change than it appears. Google still looks to dominate. (Find out how dual-class shares can affect a company's performance. See The Two Sides of Dual-Class Shares.)

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