Google’s origins are rooted in their search product. Google started with a search engine, addressing a problem inherent to an infant internet; helping users find the content they want among the millions, if not billions, of websites out there. For all intents and purposes, they completely dominated the search market. While services like AOL Search, Yahoo! And Lycos made the slow transition from everyday parts of users’ lives to dinosaurs, Google seized the search market and made a business around it. Services like YouTube and Gmail piggybacked off of the popularity of Google’s search product to build their empire, eventually culminating in the creation of Android, leading to Google snatching the mobile crown from Apple and bringing us to where we are today.
The issue with where we are today, however, is that Google has, in some ways, grown too big for its britches. While their massive search empire has been profitable enough to shape Alphabet into the most valuable company in the world, they have a number of other ventures bearing various levels of profitability with some, such as their “Other Bets”, causing losses. This resulted in a recent miss on Wall Street’s expectations; Google fell short by about $.46 per share, landing at a square $7.50 per share. Naturally, a company of Google and Alphabets’ stature missing a Wall Street target is a pretty big deal. With each company in Alphabet essentially having the status of a startup, they can be more agile and run into less red tape. On the flip side, however, there are bound to be the kind of issues inherent to startups.
Recent troubles at Nest have echoed the issues faced by some of Alphabet’s other smaller projects. The firm’s recent abandonment of their Revolv hub, including remotely bricking devices that users paid good money for less than three years ago and, for most users, had their entire smart home rigged up to. In similar fashion, many of their “Other Bets” have been bringing in revenue that didn’t quite measure up to their losses, leading to a total loss for the department of $802 million, up against $166 million in revenue.
Thus, it’s up to Google, for the most part, to take the reins and move beyond their search origins. Although Google also encompasses other core products like Android, the heart of Alphabet is looking to new solutions to bring the losses for the company under control and appease Wall Street. One of the ways that Google is looking to do this is through “next-gen search”, as well as through A.I., complete with complex machine learning and powerful neural networks. According to CFO Ruth Porat, Google is “thoughtfully pursuing big bets,”. Porat did not elaborate on that statement, but most of what Google is doing to move beyond their core products is fairly clear to see. It’s worth noting, as well, that many of their “Other Bets” are close to turning a profit themselves, although some of them, such as Project Loon, will only serve to add profit to Google’s core businesses.
While all of this is going on, Alphabet has been forced into an awkward position thanks to antitrust regulators and criticisms over the use of “tax havens”. Formal charges have been levelled against Google in the EU over anticompetitive practices in their core businesses, mainly search and Android. A lawsuit with Oracle over Google’s heavy use of Java in Android that could end in a payout of roughly $9 billion, which would end up putting a huge damper on Google’s finances and taking away a lot of their investing ability, which is a very necessary element of growing their “Other Bets”. Faced with all of these challenges, Wall Street and industry watchers are waiting with bated breath to see what Google may have in store to get things up to a level that investors will be pleased with again.