SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - Google Inc CEO Larry Page, absent from the Internet company’s biggest public events for weeks, is recovering from an unspecified ailment that caused him to lose his voice and was in the office on Monday, Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said.
Page has stayed out of the public eye since last month, when he was a no-show at an annual shareholders’ meeting after having “lost his voice,” Schmidt explained at the time. His prolonged absence has raised questions about the health of the 39-year-old Google co-founder.
Page has been taking meetings at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Schmidt told reporters at the annual Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley on Thursday, but would not go into details of what ailed the co-founder.
“He’s still recovering. Larry is doing much better. He was in the office on Monday,” Schmidt said. “Larry ran the meeting. He is talking, but talking softly.”
Page, who apart from being CEO is also one of the company’s largest shareholders, is also expected to skip the company’s post-earnings conference call next week.
His absence comes as the company moves into hardware with the Nexus 7 tablet, taking on the likes of Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle Fire, and eventually Apple Inc’s iPad.
The 7-inch tablet, made by Taiwan’s Asustek, is expected to help funnel mobile users to Google’s online trove of content, including YouTube. Online pre-sales have started on Google Play and select retailers’ websites such as Office Depot‘s, with the first tablets expected to arrive next week.
Demand “was immense in the first week,” Schmidt said, without giving details.
The Nexus 7 has drawn accolades from reviewers like the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg. Pundits reckon the $199 Nexus 7 may seriously threaten the same-priced Kindle Fire, especially since Google’s offering has a camera and a higher-resolution screen.
The world’s No. 1 search engine generated $38 billion in revenue last year. But with consumers spending more time on social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, and increasingly accessing the Web on smartphones instead of PCs, investors are trying to figure out how Google’s business will be affected.
In May, Google acquired smartphone maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.
The Motorola acquisition is among Page’s many big moves since he returned to the CEO role in April 2011, replacing Schmidt, who held the top job for a decade. During Page’s tenure, Google has launched a full-fledged social networking service, Google+, to compete head-on with Facebook, and pushed deeper into the world of content with the acquisition of the Zagat restaurant reviews guides.
Schmidt said that Google continues to aggressively snap-up technology companies, at a pace of about one per week, though he noted that most of the deals are for smaller companies comprised of roughly 10 engineers.
“Even at today’s relatively high valuations the math makes sense,” Schmidt said. Google will also continue to do larger deals, he said, but noted that “there is a limit to our appetite.”
Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan in San Francisco; Editing by Gary Hill and Michael Urquhart