So what if the Apple rally is over for the moment? Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is still going strong. The stock is up 13% over the past month and 17% year to date.

Apps and tablets could be driving the gains. This week, the Google Play store, which now hosts 675,000 apps and games, served its 25 billionth download. The search king celebrated with a massive $0.25 sale on apps from a number of well-known developers, including Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) and Angry Birds creator Rovio.

To be fair, Apple's iTunes Store passed the 25 billion downloads mark in March, only to reach 30 billion three months later. But what used to be a wide margin between the number of downloads served by Google's old Android Market and iTunes has thinned considerably in recent years, no doubt thanks in part to the popularity of Android handsets from HTC and Samsung, among others.

Source: Google.

Meanwhile, IDC has released new estimates that peg 2012 tablet sales at 117.1 million units. Android tablets are expected to account for 35.3% of that total versus 60% for the iPad and a respectable 4% for Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) forthcoming Windows tablets. By 2016, IDC expects Android to still hold more than 30% of the market -- not bad considering how poorly Google has been at seeding the tablet market to this point.

What's the big idea?
Google's impressive run helped the Big Idea Portfolio increase its lead marginally through Thursday's close, and that's despite a worse-than-4% pullback in Apple shares. For those unfamiliar with this weekly series, I'm going head-to-head with Mr. Market in a three-year showdown to see who's better at producing returns for investors. Here's where I stand as of this writing:


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return









Rackspace Hosting




Riverbed Technology (UNKNOWN:RVBD.DL)







Average Return




S&P 500 SPDR








Source: Yahoo! Finance. *Tracking began at market close on Jan. 6, 2012. **Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Call it the occasional benefit of owning a growth portfolio at a time of broad decline for the indexes. The Nasdaq Composite and Russell 2000 led the laggards, down 2.71% and 2.52%, respectively, while the S&P fell 1.84% and the Dow declined 1.22%, according to data supplied by The Wall Street Journal.

Notable newsmakers
And yet it could have been worse. Thursday's action included a 0.96% gain for the S&P 500, snapping a five-day losing streak. Major indexes rallied when Spain officially released a budget that documents a laundry list of austerity measures.

China also lifted stocks. Speculators are betting that a move to inject $57.9 billion into money markets earlier this week foreshadows a new stimulus plan for the region, CNBC reported. Will it make a difference? For local companies, perhaps. Foreign competitors are still having a tough time. Just this week, Google announced plans to shut down a 3-year-old free music download service it had been offering to Chinese customers.

Here at home, Riverbed Technology rallied after a William Blair & Co. analyst upgraded the stock from market perform to outperform on the belief that its plan to diversify into a multi-product company is gaining needed traction.

Research In Motion (NYSE:BB) needed no help reversing itself. Sort of, anyway. The stock soared more than 20% in after-hours trading on Thursday as the BlackBerry maker's adjusted net loss handily beat expectations. And that's in spite of a 31% drop in revenue, from $4.2 billion in last year's fiscal second quarter to $2.9 billion this time around.