At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.

But in "This Just In," we don't tell you what the analysts said and stop there. No, we're here to hold Wall Street to account. We're going to tell you what the analysts said ... and then show you whether they know what they're talking about. Helping us in this endeavor will be Motley Fool CAPS, our tool not only for rating stocks but also for rating the analysts who rate stocks. With CAPS, we'll be tracking the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

What's the word?
This time, it's research from Cowen and Company, raising its earnings outlook for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) while lowering that of Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) on some controversial grounds.

In the firm's opinion, Google isn't done growing its market share in Web search quite yet. Fifty percent of the queries in North America and 70% of the European search traffic isn't dominant enough, and lead analyst Jim Friedland thinks the big G can hit at least a global 90% share in the next 10 years.

If that happens, it's obviously good news for Google and terrible news for Yahoo!, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), IAC/InterActive (NASDAQ:IACI), and anyone else who dares to challenge the incumbent here. Friedland sees an unassailable moat around Google, built on massive R&D and capital expenditures, synergies between the search and advertising leadership positions, and the freedom to focus on a better user experience as the money is coming in without pushing the monetizing envelope too hard.

Why should I care what you think?
So how good is Cowen at this game, and should we listen to what the company is saying? Well, Cowen's CAPS rating has gone through some ups and downs lately, but it's now on the rise and nearly in the coveted All-Star territory, with a solid rating of 74 today.

It's a gain based on a few superstars rather than a broadly excellent portfolio, though -- Cowen's accuracy rating is a slightly subpar 46%. Here are the biggest gainers on this scorecard:


Cowen Says

CAPS Says (out of 5)

Cowen's Pick Beating S&P 500 By

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR)



295 points

Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL)



128 points




96 points

Those are some solid home runs, showing Cowen's knack for championing unpopular successes in high-tech sectors. His track record is pretty bad in the medical sciences and retailers, though, particularly when you look at the against-the-grain picks.

Google is certainly a low-rated tech stock, only recently risen from our lowest rating of one star, so the company falls right in Cowen's wheelhouse, where its analysts seem most able.

Foolish takeaway
Could Google reach the lofty heights envisioned by Cowen's market mavens? Anything is possible, but I kinda doubt it. Microsoft's Windows platform did get that far ahead of its competitors, but it never faced the intense competition you see in online searches today. You almost have to be a first-mover to attain that pinnacle, and Google simply isn't.

That said, I myself am a happy shareholder who obviously believes there are great things ahead for Google. Just not that awesome, that fast. For more opinions on the online giant, click on over to CAPS, where the current score leader on Google has outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 27 points since last September.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick, Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, and you should always wear sunscreen.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Google shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He is not Rich Smith, but he knows what he did last summer. Okay, this summer. Anders is currently ranked 4,852 out of 32,177 active CAPS players. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure deepens your moxie on the beach.