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Google Inc. (GOOGL)

  • Sun, Jan. 18, 12:57 PM
    • TechCrunch reports Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is interested in acquiring Softcard, the mobile payments platform launched by AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) in 2010 - it was previously known as Isis, before changing its name for obvious reasons. Though Softcard's owners have invested hundreds of millions in the venture, sources state Google's purchase price could be below $100M.
    • Like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, Softcard relies on NFC radios to enable transactions. And like Wallet, it has struggled to get off the ground, as U.S. consumers overwhelmingly stick with card swipes. Hard data on Apple Pay usage remains limited for now.
    • Softcard recently laid off 60 employees. Meanwhile, it was reported in 2013 that Google had spent $300M on Wallet-related acquisitions, with little to show for it. The adoption of EMV (chip-and-PIN) readers by U.S. retailers could give NFC solutions a boost, by making card payments a little less convenient.
    • The WSJ reports Google is partnering with consulting giant PwC to bid on a $2B+ contract to update the DoD's electronic health records system. PwC says Google's tools could both improve the system's security and performance, and lower costs. A group featuring IBM, HP (NYSE:HPQ), and CSC has made a rival bid.
    • Ad tech firm Marin Software (NYSE:MRIN) provides some encouraging mobile search data ahead of Google's Jan. 29 Q4 report. A Marin study found mobile accounted for 49% of Q4 U.S. search ad spend, up from 42% in Q3, and that smartphone ad click rates were 38% higher than PC rates (thanks in part to accidental clicks?). On the other hand, mobile still only accounted for 32% of conversions.
    • Medium writer Backchannel provides a deep dive into Google Search's evolution in an  era where users increasingly want search engines to know the precise meaning of their queries. Part 1 looks at Google's efforts to optimize for mobile (aided by its Knowledge Graph and Google Now). Part 2 looks at Google's real-world research into the information needs of users. Part 3 looks at Google's investments in A.I./deep learning to deliver far more intelligent search results and spontaneously surface useful information.
  • Aug. 26, 2014, 12:49 PM
    • Google (GOOG -0.5%) was unable to buy Twitch due to concerns about "potential antitrust issues" related to the acquisition, Forbes reports. Due to the antitrust issues (stemming from Google's ownership of YouTube), the companies reportedly couldn't agree on a breakup fee.
    • Meanwhile, Amazon (AMZN +2.4%) is rallying amid favorable reviews for the Twitch acquisition. Analyst Jan Dawson sees Twitch expanding Amazon's advertising scale and drawing in new customers, and thinks its streaming tech could strengthen other Amazon services. "Amazon is clearly taking digital media very seriously, and spending heavily to fund it."
    • The Verge's Ben Popper observes Twitch will get to make full use of AWS, and will now have Amazon's resources to help with licensing. VC Ethan Kurzweil (a Twitch investor) thinks non-gaming use cases are possible. "We think that Amazon is investing here in Internet infrastructure and something more than gaming media ... What Twitch has really built here is a video-based community around any activity."
    • Yesterday: Amazon buying Twitch for $970M in cash
  • Aug. 25, 2014, 1:41 PM
    • The Information reports Amazon (AMZN +1%) "has been in late-stage talks" to acquire popular game-broadcasting platform Twitch, and could announce a deal shortly. Prior reports stated Google (GOOG -0.4%) was close to a deal to buy Twitch for ~$1B, or had fully reached one.
    • Twitch, whose platform allows users to live-stream their gaming activity (along with running commentary), has 50M+ users and a network of 4K+ content provider partners. The startup claims its average user watches 95 minutes/day of content.
    • Buying Twitch would represent a major investment by Amazon in free (ad-supported) online video. Thus far, the bulk of the company's Web video investments have been directed towards Prime Instant Video. Amazon has also been fleshing out its own game studio.
    • The Information's report shortly follows a WSJ report stating Amazon is working on a keyword-based ad platform (called Sponsored Links) that aims to replace ads based on Google's bread-and-butter AdWords keyword platform on Amazon's site and elsewhere. Amazon has already built up a sizable ad business, aided by its volumes of customer data.
    • Update (2:05PM): The WSJ reports Amazon has agreed to buy Twitch for $1B+.
  • Aug. 22, 2014, 2:42 PM
    • Gecko Design is an 18-year-old product design/engineering firm that has done work for Dell, H-P, Logitech, and Herman Miller, among others. As usual, Google (GOOG - unchanged) hasn't disclosed an acquisition price.
    • Gecko will be joining Sergey Brin's secretive Google X unit. Google X projects for which Gecko's hardware skills could be of value include Glass (still awaiting a full commercial launch) and Google's self-driving car effort.
    • Google has already been working with eyewear vendors to make Glass more aesthetically pleasing (and less conspicuous). Meanwhile, the company showed off its first internally-designed self-driving car prototypes in May; they have no steering wheels or pedals.
  • Aug. 7, 2014, 2:54 AM
    • Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is now giving better search rankings to Web pages that are encrypted.
    • The company hopes that its new search algorithm will make the Web more secure, and encourage developers to better protect websites and information.
    • Separately, Google's YouTube division announced yesterday that it had acquired Directr, an app used by small businesses to create marketing videos.
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  • Aug. 6, 2014, 2:59 PM
    • Google (GOOG +0.4%) has acquired Emu, a mobile messaging/SMS app that tries to stand out by integrating a virtual assistant service.
    • With the help of A.I., Emu analyzes conversations to help schedule appointments, make reservations, pull up movie info, and share one's location, among other things (shades of Google Now). CEO Gummi Hafsteinsson: "I felt that you kind of had to engage [Apple's] Siri all the time, and I wanted to create an assistant that was more in the background and proactive."
    • Mobile messaging has been seen as a weak spot for Google, given the huge user bases claimed by 3rd-party platforms such as WhatsApp (500M+ active users), Line, WeChat, iMessage, BBM, and Facebook Messenger. Google was rumored to have shown interest in WhatsApp before Facebook struck a $19B deal to acquire it, but has denied making a bid.
    • Though Google bundles its Hangouts app (integrated Gchat, SMS, and video calls) with Android phones, reviews have been mixed. Emu's technology appears a logical fit for future Hangouts releases.
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  • Jul. 24, 2014, 5:11 PM
    • VentureBeat reports Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has reached a deal to buy live game-broadcast/streaming leader Twitch for ~$1B.
    • Variety and The Verge reported in May Google, via YouTube, was in talks to acquire Twitch for $1B. The site claims 50M+ monthly users, including over 1.1M who broadcast their gaming activity, and has 4K+ content provider partners (inc. major sites such as GameSpot and Joystiq) whom it typically shares ad revenue with.
    • Twitch has thus far successfully fended off a competitive challenge from YouTube, which reportedly had $1.5B in 2013 net revenue and is now run by former Google ad/commerce product chief Susan Wojcicki. Twitch's heavy reliance on the coveted 18-34 demographic hasn't gone unnoticed.
  • Jul. 1, 2014, 4:15 PM
    • Google (GOOG +1.3%) says it will "explore ways" to integrate Songza, whose Android/iOS apps (5.5M MAUs) deliver human-curated music stations based on mood and activity, with Google Play Music. "We view the Songza acquisition as a way to further enhance our radio feature by adding their expertise on context."
    • The Web giant adds it will also look at ways to use Songza's curation/music recommendation expertise within YouTube and other products. Google has already announced plans to launch a YouTube music subscription service later this summer.
    • No purchase price is given for the deal. The NY Post previously reported Google had offered $15M.
    • Pandora (P), which currently has 77M active users to Songza's 5.5M, is down 2.1% AH.
    • Update: The NYT reports Google paid more than $39M for Songza.
  • Jun. 19, 2014, 2:43 PM
    • mDialog's Smart Stream platform inserts, delivers, and measures the performance of targeted online video ads over multiple device types (PCs, TVs, mobile). Clients include NBC, Fox, and the WSJ.
    • Google's (GOOG -0.3%) DoubleClick unit says it'll "work with the mDialog team to incorporate their technology and expertise into our DoubleClick product suite." Google already sells an estimated $5B+/year in video ads via YouTube, and is now making a stronger push to grow video ad sales on non-Google properties.
    • The Web giant bought ad measurement tech provider Adometry in May. Tremor Video (TRMR +1%) and YuMe (YUME -2.7%) are two independent, publicly-traded, video ad tech plays.
    • Previous: YouTube, others go after TV ad dollars
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  • Jun. 10, 2014, 1:42 PM
    • The acquisition price for the satellite imagery/analytics provider is well below the ~$1B mentioned in a prior TechCrunch report.
    • Google (GOOG -0.5%) declares Skybox's satellites "will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," and could also be used in time to "help improve Internet access and disaster relief ."
    • The deal comes barely a week after the WSJ reported Google plans to spend ~$1B to $3B+ to build a satellite fleet to provide Web access to underserved regions. Skybox, for its part, has already placed an order for 13 small satellites to complement one that it's in the air and another that's set to launch.
    • Google Maps/Earth imagery provider DigitalGlobe (DGI -2.5%) has dipped on the news.
  • Jun. 6, 2014, 1:38 PM
    • The NY Post reports Google (GOOG +0.3%) is in talks to buy streaming radio service Songza; one source reports the offer price is $15M.
    • Songa's Android/iOS apps offer curated radio stations based on mood and activity - Beats Music, soon to be in Apple's hands, does something similar.
    • The company has 5.5M active users - a base much smaller than Pandora's (P +1.2%) 77M. Pandora has dipped slightly in response to the report, but remains up on the day.
    • Buying Songza would provide a shot in the arm for Google's music efforts. All signs suggest the company's Spotify-like All Access music service has seen limited uptake since launching last year.
    • A reported YouTube music service (would feature both music videos and audio-only streaming) might fare better, if Google can reach terms with music labels.
  • May. 27, 2014, 2:33 PM
    • Several sources tell The Information Google's (GOOG +1.7%) newly-acquired Nest Labs unit is planning to expand into the home security market, and has considered buying Wi-Fi security camera maker Dropcam.
    • Dropcam raised $30M last year at a high 9-digit valuation. It offers HD cameras (priced at $150-$200) that are backed up by mobile apps that deliver sound/activity alerts, and a cloud-based recording service. Ambarella's (AMBA +1.9%) video-processing SoCs power the cameras.
    • The report follows one stating Apple plans to unveil a home automation software platform for iDevices next week. Apple's solution is said to interact with hardware from 3rd-party OEMs.
    • TechCrunch has previously reported Google plans to turn Nest, led by former iPod creator Tony Fadell and featuring many other ex-Apple employees, into its core hardware R&D unit.
  • May. 23, 2014, 10:09 AM
    • TechCrunch reports Google (GOOG - unchanged) is close to buying satellite imagery startup Skybox Imaging; a source estimates the price is around $1B.
    • The Information reported of Google's interest in Skybox in April. Aside from providing high-res imagery that could bolster Google Maps/Earth, Skybox provides related analytics services aimed at enterprises/institutions.
    • TechCrunch observes Skybox currently relies on just one satellite, and needs more funding as it gets set to launch a second one in June. The company recently placed an order for 13 small satellites.
    • DigitalGlobe (DGI +0.3%), which sold off when The Information's report came out, is taking the TechCrunch report in stride. The company is a major imagery supplier for Maps/Earth.
    • Separately, the WSJ reports Google's Project Tango, launched as an effort to create Android phones able to track motion and provide 3D visual maps of one's surroundings, now extends to tablets.
    • A 7" prototype tablet sporting "two back cameras, infrared depth sensors and advanced software that can capture precise [3D] images of objects" is said to be on tap. There's a good chance OmniVision (OVTI +1.1%), already a Tango partner, is the image sensor supplier.
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  • May. 21, 2014, 3:19 AM
    • Google (GOOG, GOOGL) needs $20-30B of its foreign earnings to finance acquisitions, which is why it had parked $35B abroad as at the end of March.
    • The search giant also plans to use $2-4B for capex and $12-14B for an R&D cost-sharing agreement.
    • Google made the disclosures in a December letter to regulators that it published yesterday. The letter comes amid controversy about how U.S. corporations keep large funds overseas in order to avoid U.S. taxes.
    • In addition, Google revealed that it passed on a $4-5B acquisition deal for a foreign company in late 2013, although it didn't provide the name of the target.
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  • May. 18, 2014, 9:22 PM
    • Variety reports Google (GOOG), via YouTube, has reached a deal to buy Twitch, a site that lets users live-stream their PC/Xbox/PlayStation gameplay, for over $1B in cash. But the WSJ reports Google's talks with Twitch are still "at an early stage;" the paper provides no acquisition price.
    • Twitch claims 45M+ monthly users, including over 1M who upload/stream videos, sometimes for widely-watched competitive events. The company claims its broadcaster count tripled in 2013, and that its average user watches 95 minutes/day.
    • Twitch also has a partner network of 4K+ content providers - it typically shares ad revenue with them - and integration deals with various game developers. Its user base skews heavily towards the 18-34 demographic whose love of online video has drawn the attention of advertisers.
    • Variety's sources state YouTube (1B+ MAUs) is prepping for a regulatory challenge to the Twitch deal. The online video giant is no stranger to hosting live game broadcasts, but its market share is well below Twitch's.
    • The reports come as top YouTube content providers such as Maker Studios and Fullscreen receive M&A interest from media giants.
    • Update: The Verge reports Google is close to a $1B deal for Twitch, and that it beat out Microsoft and other would-be suitors.
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  • May. 16, 2014, 4:44 PM
    • Google (GOOG +0.1%) has bought Quest Visual, maker of an iOS app (Word Lens) that analyzes/translates text picked up by a device's camera, and places the translated text within a revised image.
    • Google, which has shown a keen interest in applying A.I./machine learning to a variety of applications, plans to integrate Word Lens' technology with Google Translate. The acquisition follows the launch of Project Tango, an effort to enable Android phones that can create visual maps of a user's surroundings.
    • Separately, Google has hired Ivy Ross, formerly a marketing exec for several retailers, to head its Glass unit.
    • Ross, who has also worked at eyewear firms Bausch & Lomb and Outlook, arrives as Glass deals with some well-known image issues ahead of its commercial launch. The $1,500 Explorer Edition of Glass just became available to the general public.
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Company Description
Google Inc is a web search and online advertising company. The Company offers search, online advertising, operating systems and platforms, enterprise and hardware products.