Oct. 3, 2014, 10:31 AM
- India's Economic Times reports Google (GOOG +1%) is prepping a mobile messaging app meant to take on the likes of WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, and Viber. Sources state the app is likely due in 2015, and will be tested in India and other emerging markets.
- The app reportedly won't require a Google login. WhatsApp has famously eschewed requiring an online user ID in favor of relying on a user's phone number and contact book. Not surprisingly, Google's app will be free; WhatsApp charges $1/year in many markets after a year of free use.
- WhatsApp (600M+ monthly active users) and its peers have grown like wildfire in emerging markets (and some developed ones too) thanks to their ability to do away with SMS fees. Moreover, while WhatsApp has kept a minimalist approach to features, rivals have integrated gaming, payments, and e-commerce services, among other things.
- Google's Hangouts app (integrated SMS/Gchat/VoIP/video calls) sees a decent amount of use on account of being pre-installed on many Android phones, but it hasn't done much to affect the growth of WhatsApp and other major rivals. This summer, Google bought mobile messaging startup Emu, which had developed an A.I.-based virtual assistant service for its app.
- There were rumors Google was interested in WhatsApp before the Facebook deal was reached, but Google has denied making a bid.
Oct. 2, 2014, 2:40 PM
- Google's (GOOG +0.4%) new Physical Web initiative aims to let smart devices in public settings (vending machines, retail/transit kiosks, parking meters, etc.) interact with smartphone users without requiring them to first install a specific app for the device.
- A Bluetooth beacon app installed on Android/iOS phones would automatically scan for nearby smart devices, and give users the option for interacting/sharing data with them. Each device would have its own Web address, thus allowing a Web page (potentially personalized) to be opened on a smartphone when a user clicks on a link in the beacon app.
- Google plans to make Physical Web an open standard. The Web giant could benefit from the data it collects about user interactions and purchases, and potentially also from providing ads/promotions on the devices and their related Web pages. The initiative comes ahead of an expected explosion in the number of Web-connected embedded devices (i.e. the Internet of Things).
- GigaOm observes some questions/issues remain. "While there is huge value in people interacting with the objects around them, there is even greater value in giving objects enough intelligence to interact with each other ... Another problem is how to name the billions of connected things."
Sep. 26, 2014, 2:41 PM
- Google (GOOG +0.5%) has been increasing the number of Google apps OEMs must pre-install on phones running the company's version of Android to "as many as 20," The Information reports, citing confidential docs.
- Google is also said to be requiring more apps be placed on the home screen or "in a prominent folder," and that Google search be given more prominence. Affected OEMs reportedly include Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), Huawei, and HTC.
- The bundling of Google apps/services (especially Google search) is pivotal to Google's Android monetization strategy. Moreover, Google's ability to mandate bundling, together with Android's ~80% smartphone unit share, helps keep the company's mobile traffic acquisition costs down - the Web giant reportedly makes huge traffic acquisition payments to Apple for Mobile Safari search integration.
- Regulators and OEMs haven't always been thrilled with Google's requirements. The WSJ reported in July EU regulators are likely to launch a formal probe of Google's Android licensing policies.
- In January, Re/code reported Samsung had agreed (in tandem with a new patent cross-license) to tone down support for its own apps/services (often less popular than Google's) on Android phones. More recently, Samsung has been reported to be moving engineers out of its mobile software ops to other units.
Sep. 23, 2014, 5:13 PM
- More than 18 months after buying Microsoft's Atlas ad measurement/serving platform, Facebook (FB +1.8%) is about to launch a revamped version of Atlas that will allow advertisers to measure the performance of ads seen and/or clicked on by Facebook users both on Facebook and (notably) 3rd-paty sites and apps.
- By anonymously linking ad measurement to Facebook profiles, Facebook aims to once more leverage its user data for ad targeting (previous), and provide better tracking across PCs and mobile than is possible via cookies. Atlas will also feature a programmatic (automated) ad-buying interface for marketers.
- As The Information reported last month, Facebook aims to use a revamped Atlas, its mobile ad network, and LiveRail's video ad platform (together with its data) to offer a full ad tech "stack" that can challenge Google's (GOOG -1.1%) huge DoubleClick display ad unit for the dollars of marketers buying ad inventory on 3rd-party sites/apps.
- Naturally, Google hasn't been standing idly either. The company bought ad measurement platform Adometry last spring, and has been working on tools to better track cross-device and offline activity. The company has also launched an app install ad service (competes against Facebook's very popular offering) for AdWords search ads.
Sep. 22, 2014, 4:39 AM
- HTC will be refocusing its energies on tablets, after Google (GOOG, GOOGL) selected the Taiwanese company to make its upcoming 9-inch Nexus tablet.
- Google declined to comment on the reason it switches partners for Nexus devices, but outlined that "Android is a vibrant ecosystem, and...there’s room for many partners to do well and to innovate with Android."
- HTC had made Google’s first Nexus smartphone, the Nexus One, in 2010, but hasn’t made a device for the line since.
Sep. 18, 2014, 1:31 PM
- The Information reports Larry Page has proposed creating a new Google (GOOG +0.4%) R&D unit for projects even more ambitious/long-term than those handled by Sergey Brin's Google X (responsible for Glass, self-driving cars, and delivery drones, among other things).
- The unit would be known as Google Y. Some of the projects reportedly mulled for it include a more efficient airport design and a new model city. Page is also said to be interested in near-term projects such as having biometric security replace passwords, and making location tracking accurate to within inches.
- Meanwhile, in a note today, Nomura argues YouTube's video ad revenue could accelerate from 23% in 2014 to 27% in 2015 and 29% in 2016, as monetization efforts pick up and major brands direct more ad spend to the online video giant. The firm sees YouTube's gross video ad revenue rising to $8.8B in 2017 from $3.3B in 2013.
- The Information previously reported YouTube had $1.5B in 2013 net revenue (excludes revenue-sharing). Jefferies has argued YouTube is worth up to $40B, or more than Netflix ($27B market cap).
Sep. 16, 2014, 3:04 PM
- Google (GOOG +1.3%), Mercedes-Benz (OTCPK:DDAIF), and Volkswagen (OTCQX:VLKAY) have been issued permits by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to operate self-driving cars on public roads.
- The permits still require a backup human to sit in the front seat to monitor the driving situation.
- Though self-driving cars are still just a novelty for now, tech advances stemming from development have already been introduced in current models.
- What to watch: Fully autonomous cars are expected to be introduced over the next five years for use within campuses, retirement communities, or business complexes.
Sep. 15, 2014, 9:39 AM
- Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster views last Friday's reports that Google (GOOG -0.7%) is in talks to buy a stake in eBay (EBAY -0.4%) as largely unsubstantiated and thinks a deal between the two is unlikely despite Google's penchant for making big bets.
- But the analyst goes on to say that if Google were to buy a stake in eBay, he believes it would specifically target PayPal, particularly given Apple’s unique Apple Pay feature on the iPhone 6.
- Munster maintains a Neutral rating and $55 price target on eBay shares.
Sep. 12, 2014, 11:55 AM
Sep. 12, 2014, 10:53 AM
- Facebook (FB -0.3%) reportedly has reached out to some of YouTube's (GOOG -0.7%) top content producers and encouraged them to test distributing their videos on the social network, in another signal that it wants to muscle in on the video site.
- Content creators now use Facebook to promote their programming but prefer people to watch the videos on YouTube and other platforms where they can make money through ad sales more easily.
- FB and the video content creators are discussing how advertising might be incorporated into these videos, and some sort of ad product likely will be rolled out by the end of the year, WSJ reports.
Sep. 11, 2014, 7:08 PM
- After moving back above the $100/share level, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is back over the $600B mark in market cap, pushing it nearly $200B above Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), the next largest company in the U.S.
- XOM is still valued at more than $400B, but Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) at $397B and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) - which has surged in 2014, adding $74B in market cap to $386B - are closing the gap.
- Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B) completes the top five with a $339B market cap; no other companies are worth more than $300B.
- Rounding out the top 20 market caps: JNJ, WFC, GE, WMT, CVX, PG, JPM, FB, VZ, IBM, PFE, KO, ORCL, T, MRK.
Sep. 5, 2014, 2:14 PM
- The Explorer Edition of Google Glass (GOOG, GOOGL) is now available in the Devices section of Google's U.S. Play store. Before, they were only available through a dedicated Glass store.
- The display glasses still cost $1,500; Google has begun throwing in a free pair of frames or sunglasses that make users slightly less conspicuous. There's still no word on when Glass will see a full commercial launch, which almost certainly will involve a lower price.
- Himax (HIMX +3.8%) is trading higher. Shares sold off this spring on reports Google is thinking of using an OLED microdisplay instead of a Himax LCoS microdisplay in its next-gen Glass model.
Sep. 5, 2014, 4:06 AM
- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is adding new security features to iCloud, following the posting of celebrity photographs on the Internet from hacked accounts.
- A new layer of notifications will alert users if an effort is made to change a password, log in from a new device or restore files.
- The company will also add additional password protection by sending an extra code to a person’s mobile phone after a password is entered.
- Meanwhile, Apple, Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) have appealed the rejection of a proposed $324.5M settlement over a lawsuit which accused the four tech companies of limiting competition by conspiring not to hire each others' workers.
Sep. 3, 2014, 1:36 PM
- Google's (GOOG +0.1%) Calico anti-aging startup and pharma giant AbbVie (ABBV -0.2%) plan to initially invest $250M apiece on developing treatments for age-related diseases. Depending on how the effort progresses, each company could invest another $500M.
- Costs and profits will be equally split. Calico will oversee early-stage drug R&D and trials; AbbVie will provide early-stage support and potentially late-stage R&D and marketing.
- Calico was launched a year ago, is headed by Genentech chairman/ex-CEO Art Levinson, and has been busy hiring renowned anti-aging researchers. Fortune previously reported Google has committed "a minimum of hundreds of millions" of dollars to the company.
Aug. 28, 2014, 7:11 PM
- Add delivery drones to the list of products being developed by the Google X (NASDAQ:GOOG) long-term R&D division. In an in-depth column, The Atlantic reports Google has carried out over 30 test flights for its drone initiative, known as Project Wing, and hopes its drones can eventually be used by its same-day delivery service to deliver products within minutes.
- Google, whose effort has been ongoing for 2 years, has opted for an unconventional aircraft design called a tail-sitter. It's described as "a hybrid of a plane and a helicopter that takes off vertically, then rotates to a horizontal position for flying around." By contrast, Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime Air delivery drones rely on 8 helicopter-like propellers.
- Google's drones lower products to the ground using a tether featuring "a little bundle of electronics" at the end. The electronics detect when a package hits the ground, and then detach and are pulled back up.
- The Atlantic doesn't shy away from the fact plenty of reliability and safety questions remain, as do nuts-and-bolts hardware issues such as improving battery life and reducing noise. Google is said to be "in the very early days of developing a mature, reliable detect-and-avoid system."
- Wing is headed by MIT roboticist Nick Roy. Over the last 12 months, Google has bought leading military robot maker Boston Dynamics, solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace (meant to further Google's Web connectivity and imagery efforts), A.I. tech developer DeepMind, and hardware engineering/design firm Gecko Design.
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
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