Following our in-depth investigations of Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections eBay
Once again we saw the champ of the online advertising market do a number on the competition with a gaudy third-quarter performance. In the conference call, Google CEO Eric Schmidt named "strong user growth," "better ads quality," diversity of businesses, new products, and new partnerships as five key contributing factors to its third quarter.
To attract new users, Google needs to ensure both the quality and depth of its search material. It can do so in part by building out its infrastructure, which increases the speed and capacity made available to its search engine. Google had $492 million in capital expenditures in Q3, the "majority of which was related to IT infrastructure investments, including data centers, servers, and networking equipment." Besides increased capacity, it can also entice new users with additional ways to share, search, and store information online.
In the latest edition of Fool on Call, we will focus our attention on three such features that Google believes will enhance the experience for users:
- Google documents and spreadsheets
- Google News
- Google Video
1. Throwing jabs at Mr. Softy
Google and Microsoft
Google is going after another piece of ground long dominated by Microsoft -- document and spreadsheet development. Microsoft's Office, including Word and Excel, has ruled this category for as long as I can remember, but its reign may seriously be challenged with Google's latest initiatives.
The plan is to allow users to "create, store, share, and publish both documents as well as spreadsheets online." Google aims to let you and a colleague read and edit the same document simultaneously.
The idea of virtual collaboration is nothing new -- one of Avid Technology's newest innovations applies the same idea to digital video editing. But Google says its version will offer unprecedented scale and ease of use. Google co-founder Sergey Brin explained that the company has been employing this new product in-house for some time now, leading me to surmise that many of its glitches have already been worked out.
2. Back to the future, Google style
Google is also expanding its tools made available to users through the development of Google News. Brin remarked in the call that "now you can search not just the current news, but archives going back 200 years." He encouraged listeners to give it a try -- so I did.
Sure enough, on Google News, you'll now find a "news archive search" link. One of the pre-made categories available was "Sinn Fein" -- convenient for me, since I am currently taking a course at Duke University on peacebuilding in post-conflict Northern Ireland. I clicked on one article dating back to May 4, 1921, published by The Washington Post, only to find that I had to pay to read the full piece. As it turns out, many of the articles were available only on a pay-per-view basis, with each publisher setting their own rates for access.
I don't know if this will discourage other users from this service, but it certainly discouraged me. But Google is hopeful that its current partnership model with the various publishers, while not as easily accessible as a flate-rate option for all content, will enhance users' value in the long run by expanding the depth of archived content.
Perhaps so. But my initial experience with the service leads me to question the usefulness of depth if no one is willing to pay for it. Ultimately, I see the current model being best utilized less by individuals than by universities, research institutions, and think tanks willing to pay for access.
3. Video is, like, kind of important
In our investigation of Yahoo! and its most recent conference call, it would've been impossible to miss the importance of video in its business objectives. Likewise, you couldn't sit through the Q&A portion of Google's call and overlook the importance of video to its strategy.
The recent addition of YouTube is obviously a major piece of Google's video strategy, which strengthens its partnership with News Corp.'s MySpace. Additional partnerships with Adobe
Brin elaborated further on why Google Video is so important to its customer: "When I perform a search, I often find that the best answer is not necessarily a web page . if you are learning a sport, if you want to build a house, if you want to study a science, often videos are the best medium to learn how to do those things."
Video can particularly enhance Google's bottom line through advertising. In the Q&A portion of the call, we learned that the company has begun offering video ads to advertisers in more than 30 countries. Early adopters include General Motors, OfficeMax, Nike, British Airways, and Renault. With video, Google not only improves a user's search experience, but also increases revenue for the company -- a win for all concerned.
Integration: key to Google's future
Google is rapidly expanding its user-friendly tools, leading CEO Eric Schmidt to conclude, "Our innovation engine is producing products at a rate that I have never seen before." But turning out a bunch of individual products will do little good unless these new features work in concert with another.
In the Q&A portion of the call, Sergey Brin touched on this danger, stating, "What we are concerned about is that if we continue to develop so many new individual products that are all their assorted silos, you will have to essentially search for our products before you can even use them. And then you will have to search before you can do a search in many cases." Sounds confusing, doesn't it? That's precisely his point.
Google must maintain not only its strong user growth, but also its integration, or what Brin dubbed "horizontal functionality," to ensure that the value of its whole business is made greater than the sum of the individual parts. One day, when I google Sinn Fein, I'll not only get relevant websites, but also related news archives, videos, and photos, significantly enhancing the search experience.
Google's stock performance reflects its proven track record of innovation. This conference call suggests to me that shareholders can expect more of the same.
Your search for more conference call analysis ends here:
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