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Jun. 4, 2015, 6:25 AM
- After thirteen months in the position, Chris O’Neill, the business chief for Google (GOOG, GOOGL) Glass, is stepping down, although he will still be staying with the company.
- Separately, Sergey Brin said one of the company's driverless car has been involved in another rear-end accident, bringing the total number of accidents over the last six years of testing to 12.
- Defending the prospects for the self-driving technology, Brin said he's "very proud of the record of the cars" and his goal is to "beat human drivers."
May 28, 2015, 2:17 PM
- Google (GOOG - unchanged) has kicked off its I/O conference with a flurry of product launches. Among them: Android Pay, a replacement for the Google Wallet Android app that handles both in-app and in-store/NFC payments. Google states 7 out of 10 Android devices currently support Pay, and that 700K U.S. stores are able to accept it. (live blog)
- Android M, expected later this year, will be a nuts-and-bolts OS update rather than a major overhaul. Product chief Sundar Pichai: "We've really focused on polish and quality, we've literally solved thousands of bugs." New features include Android Pay, better app permission controls, deep linking between apps, and custom Chrome tabs within apps.
- Brillo, the Android-based IoT OS rumored to be in the pipeline, will launch in Q3. The OS is promised to be very resource-efficient, and will be accompanied by a communications software stack called Weave that lets Brillo devices easily interact with each other (as well as phones).
- Google's cloud photo service (previously buried within Google+) will now be provided through a standalone Photos app; it uses machine learning to organize pictures by people, places, and things. Notably, Google will be providing free, unlimited, cloud storage for photos and videos; photo resolution is limited to 16MP, and video to 1080p.
- As Apple reportedly preps a Google Now rival, Google is launching Now on Tap, a feature that brings up Now cards related to whatever is on a user's screen by long-pressing the home button. Now will also handle voice searches that take into account the content a user is viewing.
- Some shared stats: 1) Android, Chrome, YouTube, and search each have over 1B monthly active users; Gmail is at 900M. 2) 17M Chromecast HDMI sticks have been sold. 3) Over 4K apps have been developed for Android Wear. 4) 35 auto brands support Android Auto.
- Update: A couple more announcements: 1) Google Maps is being updated to support offline search and navigation. 2) The Cardboard virtual reality platform (aimed at developers for now) has been extended to iOS.
May 27, 2015, 2:18 PM
- 9to5 Mac reports Apple (AAPL +1.8%) is "readying a major new iOS initiative codenamed 'Proactive,' which will leverage Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook, and third-party apps to create a viable competitor to Google Now (GOOG +1.1%)."
- Proactive will reportedly replace Apple's Spotlight search feature - a dedicated search bar will be included - and be placed to the left of a user's Home screen. Like Now, it will rely on data from various apps to push timely info to a user. The service will also integrate with Apple Maps to "display personally relevant points of interest using an augmented reality interface," and have a UI that "automatically populates with content based around three key parts of iOS: Apps, Contacts, and Maps."
- Also: 1) In addition to an augmented reality view, Maps will be given a "Browse Around Me" button that shows points of interest on an overhead map. 2) A Siri API codenamed Breadcrumbs will be provided to 3rd-party developers; its features will be limited due to privacy concerns.
- The report comes less than a year after Apple replaced Google with Bing as Spotlight's default search provider via iOS 8; Google remains the Safari browser's default provider. Sources tell 9to5 Google's iOS traffic has dropped since the iOS 8 launch.
- Other news: 1) Google announces it's updating its iOS search app (features Now) to integrate with and pull data from 3rd-party apps such as OpenTable; its Android search app already supports this. 2) During a Code Conference talk, Apple operations chief Jeff Williams states Apple Watch developers will soon be able to write native apps (iPhone app pairing is currently required) and have direct sensor access. 3) CBS CEO Les Moonves says he recently met with Apple to do a TV service deal, and that a deal will "probably" happen.
- Update: During his talk, Williams also provided more grist for Apple car rumors by declaring the car to be "the ultimate mobile device."
May 27, 2015, 2:47 AM
- Several other Internet giants reached out and held early discussions about buying Flipboard in recent weeks, including Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Google (GOOG, GOOGL), although those talks involved ideas around how products would be integrated rather than centering around price, sources told WSJ.
- Talks with Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) went further, discussing a $1B+ all-stock deal, but those negotiations have largely stalled since April.
- Previously: Report: Twitter held talks to buy Flipboard for over $1B (May. 25 2015)
May 21, 2015, 6:21 PM
- The Information reports Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) plans to launch an OS (codenamed Brillo) for embedded/wearable devices (the proverbial Internet of Things) that could power hardware featuring as little as 32MB-64MB of RAM. As one would expect, Google is deemed "likely to release the software under the Android brand."
- Google has already launched a smartwatch OS (Android Wear), and an OS for automotive infotainment systems (Android Auto). Though gauging long-term growth is easier said than done, the number of Web-connected embedded/wearable devices is widely expected to soar in the coming years - Gartner has forecast 25B Web-connected products will be in use by 2020, up from 4.9B in 2015 and 3.8B in 2014.
- Other Google news: 1) YouTube has launched TrueView, an ad format that lets users learn about/buy products shown in video ads. The solution furthers a monetization push that's set to include the launch of an ad-free subscription service. 2) Gartner estimates Chromebook sales will rise 27% Y/Y in 2015 to 7.3M; the education market (72% of 2014 sales) will remain their biggest buyer. For reference, Gartner has forecast total 2015 PC sales will amount to 306.3M.
May 21, 2015, 11:04 AM
- Sling TV (DISH +2%) has rolled out its Android TV app for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus Player streaming-video device, along with a 50%-off promotion for the hardware.
- The move means that Dish's $20/month streaming live-TV service is compatible with all Android TV devices, as well as available on Roku's and Amazon's streaming hardware and the Xbox One, among others.
- The companies are offering 50% off of the Nexus Player (listing for $99 on Google's store) if buyers prepay for three months of Sling TV.
- Previously: Sling TV: Core channel bundle likely to stay skinny (May. 11 2015)
May 21, 2015, 9:17 AM
- New additions to Goldman's hedge fund hotels - 50 stocks which most frequently appear among the largest ten holdings of hedge funds: AerCap (NYSE:AER), Assured Guaranty (NYSE:AGO), Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI), Citizens Financial (NYSE:CFG), Colony Capital (NYSE:CLNY), Dresser-Rand (NYSE:DRC), Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO), Hospira (NYSE:HSP), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), NXP Semi (NASDAQ:NXPI), Pharmacyclics (NASDAQ:PCYC), Visa (NYSE:V), and Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA).
- Since 2001, the basket has outperformed the S&P 500 in 66% of quarters by an average of 73 basis points. YTD, however, it has underperformed by nine bps. Goldman notes the current basket overweights Consumer Discretionary (22%) and underweights Consumer Staples (2%).
- Looking at the full list, Actavis (NYSE:ACT) leads the way, with 77 funds naming the stock as a top 10 holding. Next up is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) with 69, then Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) at 42. For the entire list of 50, the average is 26 funds making a stock a top 10 holding.
- The rest in order: Valeant (NYSE:VRX), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Time Warner (NYSE:TWC), Delta (NYSE:DAL), Cheneire (NYSEMKT:LNG), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYK), AIG, SunEdison (NYSE:SUNE), Air Products (NYSE:APD), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), GM, BofA (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Macquarie Infrastructure (NYSE:MIC), American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Ally Financial (NYSE:ALLY), NorthStar Realty (NYSE:NRF), Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), MasterCard (NYSE:MA), Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), Micron (NASDAQ:MU), Williams (NYSE:WMB), Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B), Dolar General (NYSE:DG), NorthStar Asset (NYSE:NSAM), Brookdale Senior (NYSE:BKD), DISH Network (NASDAQ:DISH).
- See also: Goldman updates list of hedge funds most-shorted stocks (May 21)
May 19, 2015, 2:47 PM
- 3 months after the companies reached a deal to include tweets within Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) search results, Google is adding Twitter's (TWTR +0.3%) content to its U.S. English mobile results, both via the company's mobile site and its widely-used Android/iOS search apps. PC integration and support for other countries will arrive later.
- Notably, tweets appear at the top of the sample mobile search result pages shown by Google, and images attached to a tweet are shown. Google emphasizes the value of Twitter content as a real-time information source for its results - indeed, one of the sample tweets has a timestamp indicating it was published just 12 seconds before coming up in a Google search.
- Twitter has turned positive following Google's announcement, after spending most of the day down slightly. The news comes as Twitter revamps the search experience on its own site to provide quick access to "top" tweets and filtering options for photos, videos, accounts, and news.
- Last month, following its Q1 sales miss, Twitter announced a partnership with Google's DoubleClick display ad unit.
May 18, 2015, 5:12 PM
- While Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has moderated the pace of its cloud infrastructure (IaaS) price cuts over the last 12 months, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) isn't taking its foot off the pedal: Price cuts ranging from 5%-30% have been announced for its core Compute Engine computing virtual machine services.
- Google claims it now has a 40% pricing edge over unnamed rival IaaS providers for many workloads - a 26% edge in list prices, plus a 14% benefit from "customer-friendly" pricing features such as sustained use discounting, per-minute billing, and a lack of prepaid service lock-in.
- Also: Google has launched Preemptible VMs, a solution for running short-duration jobs on idle capacity at a 70% discount to regular prices (provided the capacity is available). The company suggests the option is useful for "computationally expensive" analytics and graphics-rendering workloads.
- Google, which has tried to differentiate its cloud offerings by a focus on developer-friendly services - Amazon is still generally seen as having a lead in total features - also announced major price cuts last November. Synergy Research estimates Google's IaaS and cloud app platform (PaaS) revenue rose 74% Y/Y in Q1, and that it was the market's 4th-biggest player after Amazon (towers over the space with a 29% share), Microsoft, and IBM.
May 16, 2015, 5:39 PM
- In the latest example of an Internet giant trying to move activity from partner sites/apps to its own - for another recent one, see Facebook's Instant Articles launch - Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) will soon roll out Buy buttons for search product ads that take users to a Google product page to complete their purchases. The WSJ reported in December Google had approached retailers about the idea.
- Macy's is reportedly among the retailers talking with Google about supporting the feature, which will follow the launch of Buy buttons from Facebook and Twitter. Google will store and process payment info; retailers will still handle shipping, customer support, etc. Google is addressing retailer concerns about losing access to customer data by passing on contact info users opt to provide.
- Google won't charge advertisers extra for adding a Buy button. However, it stands to profit if a faster/more convenient buying experience leads to higher conversion rates, thus compelling merchants to up their Google ad spend.
- This could particularly hold true on mobile, where small screen sizes can lead to a poor shopping experience on 3rd-party sites, and drive users to make purchases via retailer apps (thus cutting Google out). Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is indirectly in the crosshairs: Google has argued Amazon is its top search rival, given the greater likelihood of Amazon shoppers to go directly to its site/apps and bypass Google search.
- Separately, the FT reports a European carrier looking to gain leverage against Google plans to roll out ad-blocking software (provided by Israeli startup Shine) to users this year on an opt-in basis. Several peers are also reportedly thinking of blocking ads.
- The effort could run afoul of European net neutrality laws and/or spark a backlash from local advertisers and publishers - French ISP Iliad/Free was forced to stop automatically blocking ads in 2013 following government pressure. It could also lead Google and other companies whose ads are blocked to retaliate by blocking their content from being delivered to a carrier's users.
May 15, 2015, 12:07 PM
- "This summer, a few of the prototype vehicles we’ve created will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif., with our safety drivers aboard," says Google (GOOG -1.3%). The announcement comes 5 months after Google, whose initial self-driving tests relied on modified 3rd-party cars, unveiled a fully functioning self-driving car prototype.
- The prototypes will use the same software/algorithms as Google's fleet of modified Lexus RX450h SUVs, which have logged nearly a million miles of autonomous driving. For now, their speed will be capped at 25mph. Google is interested in "uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle—e.g., where it should stop if it can’t stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion."
- The Web giant has said it wants to begin selling a self-driving car by 2020, and has talked with various automakers about bringing one to market (with Google acting as a hardware/software supplier). Earlier this week, Google stated its cars have been involved in just 11 minor accidents during 1.7M miles of autonomous and manual driving over 6 years, and that "not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident."
- Last month: Google reportedly had $6B 2013 deal to buy Tesla
May 13, 2015, 12:55 PM
- Tesla Motors (TSLA -0.2%) plans to introduce an autonomous car-passing feature on newer Model S vehicles.
- The driver activates the option through the use of a turning signal stalk in a legal twist that could alleviate some concerns over insurance liability.
- Sources tell the WSJ the timing of the software roll-out isn't certain yet.
- Safety remains a major topic amid the push in the automobile industry to roll out self-driving features.
- Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) top self-driving car exec, Chris Urmson, addressed the issue in a blog post in which he disclosed the program has been involved in 11 minor accidents in six years of testing of the company's autonomous cars.
- Urmson on Google's algorithm vs. human error: "With 360 degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times; our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields."
May 6, 2015, 3:48 AM
- In an apparent shift in attitude, the FAA is planning to announce an initiative today to study drone flights beyond the sight of an operator, WSJ reports.
- Until now, the agency has virtually banned such flights, including for research, and even proposed rules earlier this year that would prohibit them.
- Both Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which are seeking to use drones for package delivery, say U.S. regulators have recently become more receptive to their efforts.
Apr. 28, 2015, 10:29 PM
- On a day that it posted a Q1 sales miss (a little ahead of schedule) and cut its full-year guidance, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) announces it's partnering with Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) DoubleClick unit (a giant in the display ad space) to allow Twitter advertisers using DoubleClick to "measure when conversions result from views and other actions on Twitter."
- Notably, Twitter/DoubleClick plan to give advertisers "a new attribution model in DoubleClick to get a fuller understanding of how Twitter Ads served on mobile or desktop drive conversions for them across the web." That could point to the (anonymous) use of Twitter profiles to track ad conversions. Also: The companies plan to make Twitter ad inventory available through DoubleClick Bid Manager, a widely-used ad-buying platform supporting many online ad exchanges.
- The addition of Twitter as a partner is a notable win for DoubleClick as it tries to fend off Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which last fall launched a new version of its Atlas ad server/measurement platform that tracks the performance of ads seen by Facebook users both on its site/apps and others. Facebook is counting on its anonymous linking of user profiles with ad measurement to give it an edge against DoubleClick and other rivals relying on cookies.
- Meanwhile, Twitter's Q1 CC (live blog) failed to cheer up investors. The company mentioned Q2 user growth is off to a "slow start," and that ad click rates (CTRs) declined Q/Q in Q1 due to a mix shift towards formats with lower CTRs. Ad load was flat, and app install ads (a format Facebook has seen huge success with) underperformed.
- On the bright side, CEO Dick Costolo noted more than 1M people signed up for Twitter's Periscope live-streaming app in its first 10 days, that the company has seen "orders of magnitude" more native video on its site following the launch of a 30-second video platform in January, and that it's working with Apple on a Spotlight search integration deal. CFO Anthony Noto stated Twitter will begin counting users of its SMS follow service (there are currently ~6M) as MAUs.
- Twitter fell 1.6% in AH trading after dropping 18.2% in regular trading on account of its results. Shares are now at $41.58.
- Three months ago: Google, Twitter strike deal to add tweets to search results
Apr. 24, 2015, 5:14 PM
- Thanks to a better-than-feared Q1 report that included lower-than-expected spending figures, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) rallied to its highest levels of the month today. Class C shares are now up 16% from a January low of $487.56, and 6% below a 52-week high of $599.65.
- At least 6 firms have hiked their targets. Deutsche's Ross Sandler (Buy) notes net profit margin was flat in Q1 "after imploding for three years," something he attributes to both cost discipline and management changes.
- Looking at the top-line, Morgan Stanley (Equal-Weight) is worried U.S. revenue growth slowed to 11% Y/Y (the slowest pace since Q4 2009). With YouTube having likely grown over 40% Y/Y, MS thinks U.S. search revenue (higher-margin) was only up 9%-10%.
- On the CC (transcript), CFO Patrick Pichette stated a mix shift towards YouTube ads - any un-skipped video ad is counted as a click - was pressuring Google's ad prices (CPCs), and not mobile. "Excluding the impact of YouTube TrueView ads, growth in site clicks would be lower, but still positive, and our CPCs would be healthy and growing year-over-year." Sales chief Omid Kordestani noted YouTube's TruView advertiser count rose 45% in 2014.
- BofA/Merrill (Buy) is pleased with the CPC disclosure, as well as sales growth and margin stability. "We continue to see opportunity for sentiment improvement on new products (I/O in May), anticipation of new CFO, spending trajectory change, and YouTube strength.
- Meanwhile, eyewear maker Luxottica has announced it's working with Google on a commercial version of Google Glass that will launch soon (no ETA is given). Sales of the $1,500 Explorer Edition ended in January.
- Glass chief Ivy Ross previously stated the next version will be cheaper, have a longer battery life, and a better display and sound quality. Himax (NASDAQ:HIMX) is expected to remain Glass' microdisplay supplier, and Intel is expected to be its CPU supplier. Eric Schmidt affirmed Google's commitment to Glass last month.
- Prior Google earnings coverage
Apr. 23, 2015, 4:27 PM
- Much like Facebook, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Q1 sales were hurt by a strong dollar - Y/Y growth was 12% in actual dollars, and 17% in constant currency. Google did manage to partly offset forex pressure by recording $311M in hedging gains.
- Ad prices (CPCs), affected by both forex and an ongoing mix shift towards smartphone ads, fell 5% Q/Q and 7% Y/Y, after dropping 3% Y/Y in Q4. Paid clicks fell 1% Q/Q (seasonality) but rose 13% Y/Y; they were up 14% Y/Y in Q4.
- Google sites revenue (69% of total revenue) +14% Y/Y to $11.9B. Revenue from ad network sites (hurt by policy changes, and perhaps also the mobile shift) +1% to $3.58B. Other revenue (Nexus hardware, Google Play, etc.) +23% to $1.75B. Paid clicks on Google sites rose 25%, while clicks on ad network sites fell 12%.
- Google cooled its spending growth a bit: Operating expenses were 35% of revenue vs. 37% in Q4 and Q1 2014 - R&D spend totaled $2.75B, sales/marketing $2.07B, and G&A $1.64B. Traffic acquisition costs were 22% of revenue, even with Q4 and down from 23% a year ago.
- Op. margin was 33% vs. 32% a year ago. Free cash flow was $3.69B, trailing net income of $4.53B thanks in part to a 25% Y/Y increase in capex to $2.93B. Google ended Q1 with $65.4B in cash/marketable securities (much of it offshore), and $5.2B in debt.
- GOOG +1.8% AH to $557.00.
- Q1 results, PR
Alphabet Inc through its subsidiary Google Inc is engaged in improving the ways people connect with information & products including Search, Android, YouTube, Apps, Maps & Ads. It also produces internet-connected home devices & provides internet services.
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