Don't let it get away!
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Has my friend Rick read Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) less-than-inspiring quarterly report? How about Citigroup's (NYSE: C ) nonsensical profit claims? Has he seen how Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) snubbed Santa by moving December's results into 2009? Reality distortion fields don't come any thicker.
To be fair, Google's report was nowhere near as strong as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) or Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , but let's give the search king credit. A 6% revenue boost led to a more than 100% gain in free cash flow, as CEO Eric Schmidt and team cut capital expenditures by nearly 70%.
Careful expense management has added another layer to what was already a fortress-sturdy balance sheet. Google now has more than $17.7 billion in cash and liquid investments, with zero debt.
Why you're wrong about YouTube
Also, let's please dispense with the failure fallacies. YouTube isn't monetized? Says who? Sure, ads are only starting to make their way onto the platform, but compared to YouTube, every other video-sharing site is second banana.
Actually, that doesn't quite capture it. Google sites -- mostly YouTube -- served 5.9 billion video streams in December, for a 41.2% share of the market, researcher comScore says. No other video site achieved a double-digit share. Not even Hulu; its 240.5 million videos served equaled a 1.7% share.
An evil plot to destroy the world? With those sorts of numbers, Hulu, you'll be lucky to level Cincinnati.
If YouTube is the market's gorilla, everyone else is a cockroach. And that's a massive revenue opportunity in the making. U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports that YouTube clips of British singing sensation Susan Boyle have been viewed more than 100 million times. Delivered with ads, the views could have created a 1.5 million-pound windfall for iTV and the other producers of the show Britain's Got Talent.
So if you're thinking that YouTube -- or Gmail, or Google News -- is to Google as Skype is to eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) , you're missing the point. Every Google property that indexes content in some form creates more content to search, which furthers the company's overall revenue opportunity.
The numbers say we're as curious as ever. U.S. netizens performed 14.3 billion searches in March, up 9% sequentially. Google led the market with 63.7% of those queries, up from 63.3% in February.
That's why Google vice president Marissa Mayer has said that Google News generates as much as $100 million in revenue from search referrals. Expect that total to rise now that The Big G has begun to show ads on some of its news pages, including content that it hosts for the Associated Press.
Hey! You! Get onto Google's cloud
Finally, let's talk failure -- layoffs and product cancellations, principally.
As sad as I was to see Google stop development for its Notebook product, I'm a huge fan of how the Big G went about canceling this and other dead-end endeavors. These were mercy killings. Rather than support a small user base for years, the Big G ended Dodgeball and Jaiku early. Any other move would have cost shareholders money; Jaiku was a sure loser compared to the emerging behemoth that we call Twitter.
It's fair to call these experiments misses, because they were. But they weren't failures of Google's business model. To the contrary, they're proof that when you operate in the cloud, you can rapidly prototype and deploy software. You get customer feedback more quickly, and consequently use R&D dollars more efficiently.
Innovation happens more quickly, too. Months after releasing a version of its Gears plug-in, which allows users to access Gmail even when disconnected from the Web, Google this week released O3D, a similar plug-in designed to tap a PC's graphics chip to better express complex images in the cloud, News.com reports.
Will this innovation succeed? Who knows? Who cares? It matters more that even as Google is cutting expenses, it continues to find ways to make the cloud a more effective environment for personal and business computing.
And that's still a multibillion-dollar opportunity.
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