Mon, Jan. 19, 3:07 PM
- The Information reports Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is nearing a deal to invest in Elon Musk-founded rocket/spacecraft maker SpaceX. One source says the funding round is "very large," and will assign SpaceX a $10B+ valuation.
- The reported goal of the investment would be to "support the development of SpaceX satellites that could beam low-cost Internet around the globe to billions who don’t have it." Google was reported last June to be looking to spend anywhere from ~$1B to $3B+ on a satellite constellation providing Web access, and soon afterwards bought satellite imagery/analytics firm Skybox Imaging.
- Musk and SpaceX, meanwhile, are just days removed from unveiling plans for an Internet venture involving hundreds of satellites traveling at a much lower orbit than most satellites (thus reducing latency). Musk: "The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber. The long-term potential is to be the primary means of long-distance Internet traffic and to serve people in sparsely populated areas."
- A Google/SpaceX effort would have competition: Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Richard Branson's Virgin Group just agreed to invest in OneWeb, a firm that plans to launch 648 broadband-capable low-orbit satellites.
- OneWeb is led by Greg Wyler, an industry vet who once worked for Google and was later rumored to be talking with Musk. Musk now asserts SpaceX has an edge on OneWeb. "Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture. We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated..."
- Satellite services firms that could be affected: LORL, GSAT, IRDM, I, VSAT
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.
Thu, Jan. 15, 1:21 PM
- The WSJ reports Google Glass (GOOG +0.2%) will be moved out of the Google X research lab (focused on long-term projects) and turned into a standalone unit. The unit will be directly led by current Glass chief Ivy Ross (hired last May), and overseen by Nest Labs CEO/iPod "godfather" Tony Fadell.
- The paper adds Google plans to stop selling the $1,500 Explorer Edition of Glass to individuals (but not companies/developers) on Jan. 19, as it preps for a 2015 full commercial launch involving a second-gen model (and presumably a much lower price point).
- Intel was previously reported to be the CPU supplier for the second-gen version of Glass. Himax (HIMX -4.1%) is believed to remain the microdisplay supplier.
- At the time of the Nest acquisition, TechCrunch reported Nest will become Google's primary hardware arm, developing many products besides smart thermostats and smoke alarms. Since then, Nest has acquired monitoring camera/cloud recording service provider Dropcam; many Dropcam employees are reportedly unhappy working under Fadell.
- Separately, Google says it's talking with GM, Ford, Toyota, and other automakers about bringing self-driving cars to market by 2020. Google, which showed off a fully functional self-driving car prototype last month, has suggested it's more interested in being a systems/software provider for such vehicles rather than a manufacturer, but hasn't closed the door on the latter option.
Thu, Jan. 15, 9:38 AM
- Lending Club (NYSE:LC) is partnering with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to "facilitate low-interest financing" for the Google for Work (cloud business app) platform's 10K+ reseller, system integrator, and consulting partners.
- Lending Club will service the loans, and Google will buy them, thereby "investing its own capital in its partner network to drive business growth." A pilot program is currently available to eligible Google for Work resellers; they can receive "two-year loans of up to $600,000 to invest in growth initiatives."
- Lending Club is up sharply a day after posting steep losses.
Tue, Jan. 13, 3:01 AM
- Just a day after unveiling its Chevrolet Bolt, GM (NYSE:GM) announced it would be open to working with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) on developing self-driving car technology.
- "I'm not in charge of deciding what we will and won't do, but I'd say we'd certainly be open to having a discussion with them," said General Motors CTO Jon Lauckner at the Detroit auto show. "I'd be completely surprised if Google doesn't have something to offer."
Thu, Jan. 8, 9:59 AM
- Believing "the best days for shares may be behind it," Stifel's Scott Devitt has downgraded Google (GOOG -1.4%) to Hold. "Google is in the early to mid stages of a core business maturation. The company continues to find growth outside of search, but in structurally lower-margin business [segments] such as Google Play and YouTube."
- Devitt adds Google will face stiff competition as it further expands into vertical search categories such as travel, local, and e-commerce - some of those efforts have been faring well - and echoes other analysts in arguing Facebook's growing share of digital ad spend poses a threat.
- Devitt has also downgraded Priceline (PCLN -1.3%) to Hold, citing concerns about forex - the impact of a weak euro is already well-known - high marketing spend, and growing competition. "The online travel market continues to benefit from secular tailwinds such as mobile adoption, but we believe that shifts in the competitive landscape and macro headwinds warrant a moderate 2015 outlook."
- TripAdvisor (TRIP +0.4%) has been cut to Hold due to worries about delayed booking service launches and higher marketing spend, as well as growth concerns about TripAdvisor's core metasearch service (previous).
- Google, Priceline and TripAdvisor were already fairly close to their 52-week lows going into today. Google and Priceline both now trade for 17x 2015E EPS. Their 2015 revenue growth consensus estimates are respectively at 19% and 17%.
Thu, Jan. 8, 3:16 AM
- Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) slice of the U.S. search market, excluding mobile devices, fell to 75.3% last month from 77.5% in November, while Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) share jumped to 10% from 8%, according to analytics firm StatCounter.
- The changes were spurred by a deal in November where Yahoo replaced Google as the default search engine on Firefox browsers in the U.S.
- Google is also facing potentially larger losses on mobile devices amid reports that Apple is considering dropping it as the default search provider on its Safari browser.
Dec. 31, 2014, 8:43 AM
- Among the more interesting is the idea of North Korea hackers attacking the infrastructure of the NYSE and Nasdaq, precipitating a gigantic one-hour drop in stocks.
- Others include: 1) Significantly higher Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) estimates, making it the first $1T market cap company, the best-performing large-cap in 2015, and a "must own." 2) Falling home prices in H2, making shorts of homebuilders (ITB, XHB) a good play 3) Bank stocks (NYSEARCA:XLF) have a hard time of it 4) Calling Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) his new Netflix, Carl Icahn amasses a sizable position, forcing a bidding war for the company between Google and Facebook 5) Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) becomes more shareholder friendly, cutting spending and launching a buyback program 6) Activists take aim at Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), forcing John Chambers out 7) Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B) makes its largest-ever acquisition, and its not in consumer goods, but instead in energy, retail, or construction/equipment.
- The full piece is here.
Dec. 30, 2014, 6:41 AM
- A four-day outage of Google’s Gmail service in mainland China appears to have at least partly ended today, with some users reporting they have access to their accounts.
- Most of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) services were blocked in China this past June, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
- Gmail users have still been able to access the service through third-party email applications such as Microsoft’s Outlook or Apple’s Mail, but the service appeared to have been cut last Friday.
- Previously: China blocks access to Gmail (Dec. 29 2014)
Dec. 29, 2014, 4:25 AM
- Although Gmail’s website had already been blocked, China barred access to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) e-mail service through third-party applications as of Friday, including the Mail app built into Apple's iPhones and iPads.
- Google search and map functions were blocked in China earlier this year as part of the country's limited access to foreign news and tensions over cybersecurity and hacking.
- Traffic volume for Gmail dropped about 85% on Dec. 26 before falling further the following day and remains near zero today.
Dec. 24, 2014, 11:14 AM
- Sony (NYSE:SNE) plans to stream The Interview on its own site and make it available for rental through Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube and Google Play, sources tell Re/code.
- Online distribution is expected to start tomorrow.
- Previously: Online launch of The Interview to be closely watched
Dec. 22, 2014, 2:15 PM
- Whereas prior Google (GOOG +1.7%) self-driving car prototypes lacked features such as steering wheels, headlights, and brake pedals - different prototypes focused on testing different systems - the Web giant says it has now "put all those systems together in [a] fully functional vehicle—our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving."
- Nonetheless, Google's safety drivers "will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn." The company presented a study last year claiming its self-driving cars already drive more safely in autonomous mode than when under human control.
- The WSJ reported on Friday Google is looking for auto industry partners to "bring its vision of a self-driving car to market within the next five years." Project director Chris Urmson: "We don’t particularly want to become a car maker ... We are still assessing the business model. We don’t know what the right relationship is."
- Urmson reiterates software, not hardware, remains the biggest challenge to bringing fully self-driving cars to market. Google maintains a target of launching one by 2017-2020.
- Driver-assistance tech leader Mobileye (MBLY -0.1%) is hoping to provide many of the hardware subsystems needed to make fully autonomous driving a reality. Its solutions are believed to underpin the advanced driver-assistance features recently launched by Tesla.
Dec. 19, 2014, 4:50 AM
- Building upon its current Android Auto software, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is laying the groundwork for a version of Android that would be built directly into cars.
- This integration would allow drivers to reap all the benefits of the Internet without plugging in their smartphones, as opposed to Google's current Android Auto software which requires a phone to be plugged into a compatible car.
- If successful, Android could become the standard system powering a car's entertainment and navigation features, although the move is likely to face heavy competition and various business challenges.
Dec. 17, 2014, 11:03 AM
- Pivotal Research's Brian Wieser has upgraded Google (GOOG +0.9%) and Twitter (TWTR +1.6%) to Buy in the wake of yesterday's selloff. His targets are respectively $610 and $42.
- Wieser: "We have been generally negative on Google since early 2013, given our ongoing concerns about margin erosion, intensive capital investment plans and diversification (also capital intensive often) away from the company's core advertising business." However, he now admits Google has grown faster than expected, and that margin erosion has been less than feared.
- Wieser is still concerned about a mix shift towards (lower-margin) display ads from search ads, and wishes Google (has no dividend or buyback program) would return some cash to shareholders. But he thinks those issues are now priced in.
- Regarding Twitter, Wieser still believes its core service "has only niche market potential at maturity," but considers the recent selloff overdone. He's also concerned about Twitter's management turmoil, arguing it could be a sign Twitter is "still trying to become something bigger than it presently is”
- Google made new 52-week lows yesterday following a JPMorgan target cut. Twitter closed near its lowest levels since June.
Dec. 16, 2014, 2:54 PM
- Though reiterating an Overweight rating, JPMorgan's Doug Anmuth has slashed his Google (GOOG -2.2%) target by $70 to $600, and also cut his estimates.
- Among other things, Anmuth cites "the transition from desktop to mobile search, continued margin compression, and increasing competition from Facebook."
- The indirect challenge posed by Facebook to Google's ad dollars was raised by some following Google's Q3 miss. Meanwhile, Facebook's Atlas (display ad-buying/measuring) and Audience Network (mobile ad network) platforms directly compete against Google's DoubleClick and AdMob units.
- The ability of Google search to deliver ads directly tied to user intent (i.e. what a user is looking to buy at a particular moment) still acts as a key selling point when battling for ad dollars. Facebook's ad targeting, by contrast, is often driven by previously-obtained user data.
- Shares have made new 52-week lows. Google now goes for 14x 2015E EPS exc. net cash/investments. The 2015 revenue growth consensus is at 17.7%.
Dec. 15, 2014, 7:02 PM
- The WSJ reports Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has "approached retailers about creating a 'buy' button" for Google Shopping that would work much like Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) one-click ordering feature.
- Google is also said to be "considering a [Google Shopping] marketing program that would allow merchants to promote two-day shipping." The program would be similar to one from ShopRunner that provides unlimited two-day shipping from various retailers for $79/year. Amazon Prime, of course, provides unlimited two-day shipping (among other things) for $99/year.
- Sources caution several retailers approached by Google were cool to the "Buy" button concept, fearing more price competition and a loss of control over the shopper experience. Google could profit from the button either by charging a transaction fee, or by simply seeing higher conversions when it's used (thus raising ad prices). The company might also get better conversion data than it's currently receiving.
- As ChannelAdvisor's data drives home, Google Shopping ads (deeply integrated with Google search) have been seeing rapid growth; Wal-Mart, Best Buy, eBay, and Sears are among their many buyers. Amazon, though spending plenty on standard Google search ads, is a high-profile holdout.
- Google officially launched its $95/year Shopping Express same-day/next-day delivery service (competes against Prime's same-day services) in October. Around the same time, Eric Schmidt called Amazon Google's biggest search rival, due to the fact Amazon shoppers are more likely to bypass Google search.
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