Just when Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) growth looked like it couldn't get any more impressive, the tech juggernaut astounded investors in the third quarter. The Google parent's year-over-year revenue growth rate accelerated to a remarkable 24%, highlighting strength in advertising and the company's Google "other revenue" segment, which counts the Google Play store, hardware, and cloud computing as its most prominent businesses.
Will this strong momentum continue in Alphabet's fourth quarter? Here are some of the most important areas for investors to check in on when the online search company releases its quarterly results next week.
Alphabet's third-quarter year-over-year revenue growth of 24% marked a significant acceleration from the 21% revenue growth the company saw in its second quarter.
Discussing the drivers behind this growth, CFO Ruth Porat said Alphabet's advertising revenue was supported by "tremendous results in mobile search," but also that Alphabet "benefited from substantial growth in other revenues from Cloud, Play, and hardware."
Since there was no anomaly behind Alphabet's strong third-quarter revenue growth -- just strong fundamental performance -- investors probably expect another quarter of robust revenue growth. Analysts, on average, are forecasting sales growth of 22.2% year over year -- above Alphabet's third-quarter growth rate but below its accelerated rate in Q4.
Alphabet's hardware business will likely see particularly strong growth in the company's fourth quarter. Ahead of the holidays, and right at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the company released eight new hardware products, including new smartphones, new smart speakers, a laptop-tablet hybrid called the Pixelbook, smart earbuds, and a lightweight smart camera.
While Alphabet doesn't break out hardware revenue specifically, it does share its Google other revenue, which includes hardware as one of the segment's contributors. Google other revenue was up 42% and 40% year over year in Q2 and Q3, respectively.
But investors will understandably want to see how Alphabet's growing hardware efforts affect costs. Management said hardware will likely have an adverse impact on cost of revenue for the segment during the fourth quarter. "[T]he impact of our growing hardware line will be more accentuated given the early stage of this business and the holiday seasonality," said Porat.
Alphabet's cloud business is arguably second in importance to the company's potential, after its core advertising business. Cloud computing, which Alphabet has said is the biggest contributor to the Google other segment, is seeing strong secular growth.
This is particularly evident at Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which boasts the world's largest cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services. AWS drives the bulk of Amazon's operating income and is growing faster than the company's e-commerce sales. AWS revenue skyrocketed 42% year over year in the company's third quarter. The segment saw more growth than Amazon's online stores revenue, which notched a 22% year-over-year change, as well as its third-party seller services revenue, which grew 40% from the year-ago period.
Alphabet's management said it was seeing "strong momentum" in the cloud business in the third quarter. Management sees a notable opportunity to expand its cloud services in e-commerce. Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained during the third-quarter earnings call:
Almost all e-commerce providers ... are really interested in ... cloud for obvious reasons. So we see tremendous traction by which we are -- we can talk to the mobile cloud. They're already advertising partners. They're beginning to work with us much more closely on driving a seamless shopping experience.
When management discusses the fourth quarter during the upcoming conference call, investors should look for more positive reports and optimistic outlook regarding the cloud segment.
Alphabet reports its fourth-quarter results on Thursday, Feb. 1, after market close.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.