Google’s Marissa Mayer takes helm at Yahoo

Third time lucky, perhaps: Yahoo’s hired yet another CEO, Google vice president Marissa Mayer.

As one of Google’s first 20 staff, Mayer is a Silicon Valley veteran and, perhaps most importantly, comes from a strong engineering background. Indeed, she was Google’s first-ever female engineer.

In her 13 years at Google, she’s overseen some of the company’s most important products, inclding Gmail and Google News. More recently, she’s headed up local, maps and location services.

“The Board of Directors unanimously agreed that Marissa’s unparalleled track record in technology, design, and product execution makes her the right leader for Yahoo! at this time of enormous opportunity,” says Fred Amoroso, chairman of Yahoo’s board of directors.

Certainly, Yahoo’s products need a bit of a boost. The company’s search facility – and associated advertising – lag far behind those of Google. And over the last year, the company’s revealed itself to be positively Wildean in its ability to lose CEO after CEO to scandal.

First, last fall, Carol Bartz was fired after she failed to turn the company round; and then her replacement Scott Thompson was forced out after it was revealed that he’d lied on his resume. There have been a couple of interim CEOs too.

Mayer is expected to focus on the company’s advertising sales business, following up the strategy of interim CEO Ross Levinsohn.

“I am honored and delighted to lead Yahoo!, one of the internet’s premier destinations for more than 700 million users. I look forward to working with the Company’s dedicated employees to bring innovative products, content, and personalized experiences to users and advertisers all around the world,” says Mayer.

“Yahoo!’s products will continue to enhance our partnerships with advertisers, technology and media companies, while inspiring and delighting our users. There is a lot to do and I can’t wait to get started.”

Not everybody, though, is confident that Mayer can deliver the turnaround that Yahoo needs.

“Yahoo!’s fundamental problem is that it has too many disparate products with no clear unifying thread that ties them all together. And Mayer’s background is in product development, not corporate strategy, not marketing, not brand definition… the areas where Yahoo! has the most critical need,” says Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk.

“My other worry with Mayer’s appointment is that it signals yet another shift in strategic vision for Yahoo!.  I count four different strategies over the last four years… I also hate that Yahoo! can’t identify and stick with a clear strategy for more than about 10 months.”

Mayer has one new product on the way, for sure: she’s just revealed that she’s pregnant with a baby boy.