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Google going on hiring binge in 2011

January 25, 2011 | 12:06 pm

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Google Inc. is planning its biggest surge in hiring yet, meaning it will add more than 6,000 new workers in 2011.

The hiring plans, which extend a hiring spree that began last year, mean big numbers for the Internet search giant, which plans to grow to more than 30,000 employees by the beginning of 2012.

The bold plan shows that Google is bullish about its chances as it engages in fierce competition with Silicon Valley giants such as Apple Inc. and with upstarts such as Facebook Inc. for fast-growing new areas such as mobile and social networking beyond its core business of search.

Google is also trying to keep employees, not just recruit them, as Facebook and others try to lure away top engineers. Last fall, Google announced a 10% raise for all its employees.

Hiring will be spread across the new initiatives. Many of the jobs will be at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (About a third of Google’s workers are in the Bay Area). Google's outgoing CEO, Eric Schmidt, said at a conference in Europe on Tuesday that Google planned to hire more than 1,000 workers in Europe.

This kind of hiring usually makes investors queasy. Google has been ramping up its spending in recent quarters.

Google added 4,565 workers in 2010, a 23% jump and the largest since its hiring binge in 2007, when it added 6,100 workers. So analysts were not surprised that Google planned on pumping up hiring in 2011.

"If this results in some killer products down the line, that's great. There are some big opportunities they are chasing after," said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

But analysts like Gillis remain concerned about the burst of spending. "That's the reason why I have one of the lowest price targets on the streets," he said.

It also prompts the question: Will Google co-founder Larry Page thumb his nose at Wall Street? Analysts say they expect Page to be "less attentive" to exceeding or meeting financial expectations, Gillis said.

Google's Schmidt is preparing to hand off the top job at Google to Page, who wants to recapture Google's entrepreneurial roots and speed up the pace of innovation.

Google is also highlighting what it says is often overlooked: a start-up culture within the company  including the Android team working on the software inside mobile devices.

"Obviously, we're optimistic about the future," Alan Eustace, a Google senior vice president, told the Mercury News on Tuesday. "The growth that we're seeing across a lot of different areas is really based on seeds we planted a long time ago. ... and the exciting part is those seeds are actually developing now; those seeds are coming into fruition."

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-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: This file photo taken April 9, 2010, shows a Google sign at Google headquarters in Mountain View. Google said Tuesday it plans to hire more than 6,200 workers this year in the biggest expansion yet by the Internet's most profitable company. Paul Sakuma/file/AP Photo

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