Sundar Pichai has another job to do: serve on the board of directors for Alphabet, the parent company for Google. Pichai has been the CEO of Google since the creation of Alphabet in October 2015 — a move that split out a bunch of somewhat random businesses into quasi-independent companies separate from Google proper.
Since then, things have gone well at Google under Pichai’s leadership, while things at Alphabet have been a bit more rocky. Some of those bumps can be attributed to the whole idea behind Alphabet in the first place: making businesses like Fiber, X, and self-driving cars “cleaner and more accountable” (emphasis on the “accountable” part).
That split elevated Pichai to CEO and perhaps allowed him to institute a little more focus inside Google — he replaced skydiving hijinks with a quieter and more deliberate tone. The company finally got serious about making its own hardware last year, potentially as a way to diversify itself and make money on something other than ads. Another major focus (if not the major focus) going forward will be AI and machine learning, technology that could be transformative (or disruptive, depending on who makes the best AI) for Google’s real core product, search.
That’s a lot to do, so hopefully sitting on the Alphabet board won’t be a distraction. The appointment is probably what Google says it is: a recognition that Pichai has done a good job as the CEO of Google. “Sundar has been doing a great job as Google's CEO, driving strong growth, partnerships, and tremendous product innovation. I really enjoy working with him and I'm excited that he is joining the Alphabet board,” said Alphabet CEO Larry Page.
Or, perhaps most likely, it could actually be recognition of another obvious fact: Alphabet may be a loose collection of companies, but really it’s a holding company for Google with some hobbies. As Recode notes, Pichai will become the 13th member of Alphabet’s board and the second Google vote on the board after Diane Greene.