Today, 3:11 PM
- "Multiple content owners have told me that Amazon (AMZN -1.6%) has been quietly asking them about licensing content for a live streaming service," streaming industry analyst Dan Rayburn reports. He cautions those he has spoken to haven't disclosed how far Amazon has progressed in creating such a service, and that the company may simply be exploring its economics.
- Rayburn notes Amazon's recent purchase of video encoding/processing software and service provider Elemental Technologies (reportedly for ~$500M) would be helpful if it goes ahead with a live streaming launch. This year has seen Dish and Sony respectively launch their Sling TV and PlayStation Vue Web TV services; there have also been several reports Apple is prepping an offering.
- Separately, in a report that helps back up Eric Schmidt's assertion that Amazon (rather than Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.) is Google's (GOOG -0.2%) biggest search rival, e-commerce software firm BloomReach states a survey of 2,000 U.S. shoppers found 44% go directly to Amazon's site/apps when looking looking to buy/research a product online. 34% start with Google or another search engine, and 21% go to another retailer's site.
- Direct visits to Amazon affect Google's search ad revenue, which depends heavily on ad-buying from online retailers (including Amazon). Google has been trying to counter Amazon by integrating its successful Product Listing Ads with search results, and (through a feature called Purchases on Google) by allowing those who click on the ads to complete their orders on Google's site, using payment data already connected to their Google account.
- Amazon's AWS re:Invent conference kicks off today. New product announcements, including possibly an analytics service, are expected during a Wednesday keynote (starts at 11:30AM ET) from AWS chief Andy Jassy.
Fri, Oct. 2, 2:01 PM
- Arguing two new ad products will put Google (GOOG +1.7%, GOOGL +1.5%) on better competitive footing with Facebook, Oppenheimer's Jason Helfstein has upgraded to Outperform, and hiked his target by $30 to $700.
- Helfstein notes Google's recently-announced Customer Match product, which lets marketers send targeted ads to users who have already provided them with an e-mail address, helps Google counter Facebook's Custom Audiences, which does something similar. Meanwhile, Universal App Campaigns (announced in May), which enables app install ad campaigns running across search, mobile sites, Google Play, YouTube, and the AdMob mobile ad network, takes aim at Facebook's lucrative app install ad business.
- He also downplays concerns about ad-blockers, citing Google's control over Chrome and Android, financial clout to pay for whitelist status on ad-blockers (provided a particular ad-blocker supports the arrangement), and a mix shift from display to search ads. Worth noting: Chrome supports ad-blockers on PCs, and some blockers remove search ads.
- Meanwhile, Helfstein thinks Google's bread-and-butter search ad business remains healthy. "While desktop search is losing share to emerging formats (video, mobile, etc.), total search will still represent the majority of Internet ad spend in the U.S. (45%) and internationally (47%). Mobile search is growing at a ’13-’18 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34% in the U.S. and 36% internationally."
- Separately, Google's restructuring into a holding company called Alphabet will officially go into effect after today's close. Google's stock tickers and board will remain the same. Alphabet's units include core Google (run by Sundar Pichai), Nest, Fiber, Calico, Google Ventures, Google Capital, and the Google X long-term R&D unit.
Wed, Sep. 30, 5:30 PM
- Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have ended a long-running patent spat involving about 20 suits in the U.S. and Germany. Financial terms are confidential.
- Microsoft, which collects royalties from Samsung, HTC, and many other Android OEMs, had alleged Google's former Motorola Mobility unit (sold to Lenovo) infringed its IP. Google, which held onto most of Motorola's patents following the Lenovo deal, alleged Xbox consoles infringed its patents.
- Much like Google/Motorola's settlement with Apple last year, the Microsoft deal comes with an agreement to cooperate on various patent issues. The tech giants plan to work on a royalty-free video codec meant to improve download/streaming speeds - Amazon and Netflix also back the effort - and lobby for a unified European patent system.
- Separately, in a move that could partly be a response to ad-blockers, Google states its display ad network will now only charge advertisers for ads that are 100% viewable by by users. The company estimates 56% of display ads "never had a chance to be viewed because they were below the fold, scrolled out of view, or in a background tab."
- Concerns about ad-blockers have grown following the recent launch of iOS 9, which supports blockers for Mobile Safari. JPMorgan has downplayed those concerns, arguing most ad-blocking takes place on desktops, that far more time is spent on mobile apps (largely immune to ad-blocking for now) than browsers, that publishers are starting to withhold content from those using ad-blockers, and that ad spend is shifting towards formats more immune to ad-blocking (e.g. native ads). The firm is concerned, however, about the fact ad-blockers prevent valuable tracking data from being collected.
Tue, Sep. 29, 12:35 PM
- As expected, Google (GOOG +0.5%) has refreshed its Nexus phone lineup with two models - a smaller device from LG known as the Nexus 5X, and a phablet from Huawei known as the Nexus 6P. (live blog)
- The 6P sports a 5.7" 2K OLED display - a moderate positive for Universal Display (OLED -0.7%), which still depends heavily on Samsung phone sales - and the 5X a 5.2" display. Both devices support 4K and slow-motion video recording, come with fingerprint sensors and reversible USB Type-C ports (said to charge twice as fast as the iPhone 6+), sport 12MP rear cameras with large 1.55-micron pixels (good for low-light photography), and run on stock Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).
- Traditionally, Google hasn't aimed for Nexus devices to become mass-market hits, but rather to serve as proof-of-concepts for its vision of what Android hardware and software should be. The company unveiled its Project Fi mobile phone service (only works with the Nexus 6 phablet for now) in April.
- Google has also announced Android now has over 1.4B active users, and Google Play over 1B active users. The company stated in June 2014 Android's user base had topped 1B.
- Update: Google states the Nexus 6P and 5X will join the Nexus 6 in working with Project Fi when they go on sale in October. Pricing has also been disclosed: The 6P will start at $499, and the 5X at $379.
- Update 2: Some more hardware launches: The Pixel C, a 10.2" Android tablet that starts at $499 and has a $149 detachable keyboard accessory; a new Chromecast HDMI dongle with an improved Wi-Fi radio; and Chromecast Audio, a $35 Wi-Fi streaming device that plugs into existing speakers.
Mon, Sep. 28, 11:50 AM
- Re/code reports Google (GOOG -2.2%, GOOGL -2.1%) is prepping a subscription service that pairs two YouTube offerings previously expected to be sold separately: YouTube's Music Key service (provides ad-free music videos and audio-only streams, currently in beta), and a pending service (confirmed in April) providing ad-free access to YouTube content in general.
- Notably, Re/code adds video industry sources have been told by Google it plans to charge just $10/month for the combined service - a price matching that charged by Spotify, Apple, and many others for standalone subscription music offerings. As the site observes, Google could struggle to turn a profit on the service at that price - Spotify has been losing money, and doesn't have to worry about payments to (non-music) video partners.
- YouTube, for its part, only says it's "progressing according to plan to provide fans more options in how they enjoy content on YouTube," and that content partners representing over 95% of watch time have agreed to support an ad-free video service. The online video giant recently told content owners they must agree to support an ad-free service by Oct. 22, or else their videos "will no longer be available for public display or monetization in the United States."
- Shares are selling off on a day the Nasdaq is down 2.1%.
Thu, Sep. 24, 8:37 AM
- Citi raises price target to $781 from $730 ahead of expected changes in financial reporting under Alphabet structure.
- Firm thinks Google is spending $4.5B this year on "moonshots," and thinks the new reporting will demonstrate the profitability of the core business, and the magnitude of its moonshot investments.
- $781 ascribes little value to moonshots.
- In its target, Citi is catching up with the Street, with consensus at above $770 already.
- Related: Instagram's Mobile Ad Revenue Will Exceed Google's (Sep. 24)
- Related: Google Becoming A Battlefield Stock (Sep. 22)
Fri, Sep. 18, 2:46 PM
- iOS 9 officially launched on Wednesday, and brought with it support for 3rd-party ad-blockers for Apple's Mobile Safari browser. Several ad-blockers - Crystal, Purify, Blockr, and before it was pulled today, Peace - have quickly jumped towards the top of App Store paid download charts.
- Google (GOOG -1.4%), whose various ad platforms (AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick, YouTube) are vulnerable to browser ad-blockers, is in the crosshairs. As are numerous online ad tech firms connecting publishers and sellers with each other and/or ad exchanges.
- Softening the blow for Google: Browsing done via its Chrome browser or core app - both are popular on iOS - isn't affected, nor is the YouTube app. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter, which get far more mobile traffic from their apps than their sites, might see only a modest hit. StatCounter estimates Safari had a 22.9% global mobile/tablet browser share in August, down from 31.2% a year ago and below a combined 46% for Chrome and the stock Android browser.
- On the flip side, iOS accounts for a disproportionate % of mobile usage and online shopping among the higher-income users coveted by advertisers, and also within the U.S. (45% of Google's Q2 revenue). StatCounter pegs Safari's U.S. mobile/tablet share at 55.2%, and Chrome/stock Android's at 39.5%.
- PC browser ad-blocking has already seen tremendous growth, especially in Europe. Defenders of the practice cite privacy concerns and the impact of ads on a device's performance/battery life, while critics argue publishers of free/ad-supported content are being deprived of their livelihoods.
- Ad tech firms: CRTO, FUEL, RUBI, MRIN, SZMK
Thu, Sep. 17, 2:33 AM
- Back from the dead? Google (GOOG, GOOGL) seems to have resurrected its troubled Glass connected eyewear project, now called Project Aura, by hiring engineers and software developers from Amazon's Lab126 R&D unit.
- According to Business Insider, Aura will remain within Google rather than Alphabet to collaborate more closely with advanced technology efforts and develop other wearables.
- Google stopped selling the initial $1,500 version of Glass to consumers in January following waning interest, criticism over its price and privacy concerns.
Mon, Sep. 14, 11:15 AM
- With market eyes on a Fed rate-hike decision considered to be a bit of a toss-up amid differing opinions, Goldman Sachs is banking on the (slightly) more dovish position that the agency will wait until December. The bank is still laying out how to play the hike when it invariably comes.
- Strength in balance sheets is what you need, it says, noting that those companies outperform (by an average 5%) in the three months after a rate-boosting cycle begins. In Goldman's "High Quality Stock" basket: CMG, DLTR, PEP, KMI, BLK, GOOG, AAPL, PCLN, ORCL, WFC.
- Meanwhile, it suggests avoiding companies with high floating-rate debt as they bear the brunt of a move away from near-zero interest rate policy. "When the tightening cycle finally starts, the immediate impact will be felt by firms with high proportions of variable rate borrowing."
- Included in that "avoid" list: CL, COL, JNJ, AAPL, EBAY, MET, KO, GIS, F, MCD, GM, TWX, CVX, AGN, MON.
- (Yes, cash-rich Apple made both lists, having a strong balance sheet along with floating debt.)
Mon, Sep. 14, 11:12 AM
- Russia's competition watchdog has ruled Google (GOOG -0.5%, GOOGL -0.5%) violated competition rules, and has ordered the company to stop abusing its "dominant" market position.
- Against a backdrop of high political tensions, Russian regulators have been probing Google's required bundling of its apps/services on Android devices, and its alleged exclusion of rival offerings. EU regulators have been carrying out a similar probe. Google's bundling requirements are a core part of its strategy to monetize Android and keep mobile revenue-sharing payments down.
- Russian search leader Yandex (YNDX +9.1%), which filed the complaint, has spiked higher. Google has been gradually taking share from Yandex: LiveInternet estimates Yandex had 57.3% of the Russian search market in Q2, down from 58.6% in Q1 and 59.7% in Q4.
Mon, Sep. 14, 5:34 AM
- Google (GOOG, GOOGL) hires John Krafcik to lead it self-driving car initiative. Krafcik is the former CEO of Hyundai and highly-regarded in the industry.
- The car business is believed to be a prime candidate to be spun out from Google's parent company, although it will stay on as part of Google X for now.
Thu, Sep. 10, 6:35 PM
- Android Pay, first announced in May at Google I/O, has launched across the U.S. today. Google (GOOG, GOOGL) states the service works on any NFC-capable Android device running version 4.4 or higher, supports American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover cards issued by a slew of major banks/credit unions.
- Android Pay works at 1M+ locales supporting tap-and-pay NFC readers. Retail partners include Walgreens, BJ's, Whole Foods, Macy's, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Panera.
- With Google not collecting transaction fees for Pay - judging by the small fees collected by Apple for Apple Pay, it wouldn't be receiving much regardless - Android Pay's potential value lies in keeping Android users happy, and perhaps providing Google with purchase data that can be used for ad targeting. In addition to Apple Pay, the service competes with Samsung Pay, which supports both NFC and magnetic stripe readers, and launches in the U.S. on Sep. 28.
- Separately, Google states it has added San Diego, Irvine, and Louisville to its list of cities where it's thinking of rolling out Fiber's pay-TV and gigabit broadband services.
- Fiber is currently available in Kansas City, Provo, and Austin, and set to launch in San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham. In addition to the cities named today, Phoenix, San Jose, and Portland are on Google's "Potential Fiber City" list.
Fri, Sep. 4, 1:19 PM
- The Information reports Google (GOOG -1.3%, GOOGL -1.4%) "hopes to get Chinese government approval to distribute a special China version" of Google Play as soon as this fall. The Chinese version of the App Store will comply with Beijing's censorship requirements, and store data locally.
- The site previously reported of plans for a Chinese Play launch last November. Google shut down its Chinese search engine (Google.cn) in 2010 rather than comply with censorship requirements. However, the company still does plenty of business with Chinese advertisers looking to reach overseas buyers, and hosts many apps developed by Chinese firms within international Play stores.
- While Android accounts for well over half of Chinese smartphone sales - Kantar Worldpanel estimates a 79.1% unit share in "Urban China" for the 3 months ending July - Chinese Android users generally rely on app stores from local tech giants Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), Qihoo (NYSE:QIHU), and Tencent (OTCPK:TCEHY). Meanwhile, the iPhone maintains a large share among higher-income Chinese users more likely to pay for apps and/or in-app purchases.
- In other Google news, Google is expanding its self-driving car tests from the company's home base of Mountain View to Austin, TX. The company has previously suggested it wants to bring a self-driving car to market by 2020, and that it wants to act as a hardware/software supplier for 3rd-party automakers.
- Google claims its cars have been involved in just 16 minor accidents in over 2M miles of driving, and that none of the accidents were its fault. However, researchers think some of the accidents are a product of Google's cars being too safe, perfectly following the letter of the law in a world where many drivers don't.
Wed, Sep. 2, 6:50 PM
- Having long included text ads with Gmail, Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is now broadly rolling out a native ad solution for Gmail that lets advertisers include pictures, videos, forms, and buy/call-to-action button, among other things.
- To keep users happy, the media content won't appear unless an ad is clicked or tapped - until then, it looks like a standard text ad. Marketers can buy ads using Google's mainstay AdWords search ad platform, and target based on keywords, audience groups, demographic data, and topics. Google had 900M active Gmail users as of May, with 75% accessing via mobile devices.
- Separately, CNET reports Google plans to unveil two new Nexus phones at a Sep. 29 event - a smaller device from LG, and a larger device from Huawei. The Huawei phone has been rumored to feature a 5.7" 2K display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, USB Type C support, and 64GB of storage. The LG phone has been rumored to have a 5.2" 1080p display and Snapdragon 808 processor.
- Previously: Google reportedly testing search ads within results
Fri, Aug. 28, 11:10 AM
- There's plenty of precedent for the recent market action, says Morgan Stanley's Adam Parker, noting the market has dropped more than 5% 16 times since March 2009, and each time has moved on to new highs.
- His half-glass view is that the economy is in the middle of its longest expansion ever, and a less-active Fed, a nervous consumer maybe saving more, a lower oil price, and a flattish dollar all argue for continued expansion.
- Morgan's top ideas to buy on the pullback: AGN, AMZN, AAPL, AVGO, BAC, BKU, DAL, GILD, GOOG, GOOGL, HLT, JPM, KR, LEN, LMCK, MGA, MBLY, NWL, QCOM, SABR, CRM, SBAC, SBUX, BX, TMO, VRSK, WWAV, XL.
Thu, Aug. 27, 7:17 PM
- Google (GOOG, GOOGL) rejects the European Union’s charges that it abused its market power and the demand that it change the way it ranks online comparison shopping services in its search results, setting up a potentially long legal battle with the EU regulator empowered to levy billions of euros in fines.
- In particular, Google argues that the EU’s charges fail to take into account the fast growth of companies such as Amazon and eBay that the company says pose a new competitive threat, which undercuts the case that it has harmed comparison shopping companies.
- Google also contends that the EU lacks the legal justification to demand it include rivals in its comparison shopping ads, arguing the EU would need to show that such ads are as essential as utility services.
- The EU now could decide to immediately impose injunctions against Google, and announce fines as high as 10% of the company’s annual global revenue, or it could seek to negotiate a new settlement.
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Alphabet Inc through its subsidiary Google Inc is engaged in improving the ways people connect with information & productsincludingSearch, Android, YouTube, Apps, Maps & Ads. Italso producesinternet-connected home devices & provides internet services.
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