Google : Alphabet Inc (US)

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In the space of just a few short years, Google knocked Microsoft off its throne to become arguably the world's most powerful - possibly the most feared - technology company with involvement in a vast array of different areas. The company describes its mission as "to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible". To that end it has built upon its core offering to spin out a kaleidoscope of additional services, ranging from global mapping and Android mobile software to healthcare research and driverless cars. Uniquely, for now at least, virtually all its add-ons are free to use, paid for by the awe-inspiring success of the company's advertising programme. Google may not be the world's biggest online company by revenues (that's still Amazon) but it's the most valuable by far with a market value of over $460bn by mid 2015. Yet Google's position at the top of the digital advertising tree is under threat from an even faster-growing business, Facebook. At the same time, its steps into hardware development have so far been patchy. In 2011, the group took steps to monetise Android by acquiring one of its first licensors, US handset manufacturer Motorola. Less than two years later, though, it sold that business on to Lenovo of China after failing to boost performance. Its Google Glass computer-powered eyewear also failed to find a ready audience. In 2015, the group announced plans to restructure, splitting out its more fanciful research-based operations as separate units under the umbrella of new parent company Alphabet Inc.

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Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Feb 2017: President Trump's "travel ban" encouraged an unprecedented pushback from CEOs of major US corporations, reflecting the wider public disapproval of such a blinkered and ill-judged executive order. Perhaps the most high-profile protest came from Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who personally joined public protesters at San Francisco airport. However, other tech bosses including Apple's Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Uber's Travis Kalanick and AirBnB's Mark Chesky, among others, also voiced their opposition to the ruling. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Trump's actions are "so are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe." Starbucks' Howard Schultz wrote to all staff to voice his dismay over Trump's policies on Muslim refugees, Mexico, and the Affordable Care Act and vowed to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in the 75 countries where Starbucks has stores. In a joint letter to staff, Ford Motors executive chairman Bill Ford and CEO Mark Fields stated "We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company." Nike's Mark Parker also wrote to all staff to express the company's opposition to the travel ban. "Nike stands together against bigotry and any form of discrimination. We've learned that on the field of play, where fairness and mutual respect are the rule, not the exception." In the latest development, Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia, all headquartered in the state of Washington, are lending their support to a legal challenge to the travel ban mounted by the state's attorney general Bob Ferguson. However, brands opposing Trump can also expect repercussions from his supporters. Starbucks and Uber both suffered boycott calls on Twitter as a result of their stance, and similar anti-protest protests are inevitable.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Feb 2017: Alphabet Inc's 4Q profits came in slightly under expectations as a result of a tax charge, but revenues were well ahead of forecast. For the year, topline surged by over 20% to $90.27bn, while net income was up 19% to $19.48bn. Perhaps the most notable development for the final quarter was a huge surge in the contribution from so-called "other bets", which comprise non-Google operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Nest connected devices. These continue to rack up large losses - down slightly year on year but still over $1bn for 4Q - but their revenues jumped by 75% to $262m. Within the main Google business too non-advertising revenues, such as app store and Nexus or Pixel hardware sales, jumped by 62% to over $3.4bn. However, search advertising continues to dominate the group's revenue stream, contributing over 86% of total sales for the final quarter. At constant currency rates, this marked the 20th consecutive quarter in which Google's own online properties have posted annual growth of 20% or more in advertising sales.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Dec 2016: Google parent Alphabet Inc unveiled an intriguing new commercial venture under the umbrella of its self-driving car division, recently spun out as an autonomous business unit under the brand Waymo. Although it already operates around 60 self-driving test minicars in a handful of US cities, the company recently indicated that it was leaning towards licensing deals with other manufacturers rather than the creation of its own automobile brand. The first such venture was announced this week, a partnership with Fiat Chrysler. Around 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans have been fitted with self-driving technology, and will begin on-road testing in early 2017. Waymo is also reported to be in negotiations for a similar deal with Honda. Separately, Google itself has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz to offer voice control of certain aspects of vehicle maintenance and security via Google Home. Users will be able to check current mileage, whether their car is locked, and when its next service is due via the OK Google voice command.

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Dec 2016: Ads of the Week: "Year In Search 2016". Google finds hope in the ashes of despair in its excellent, powerful summary of the past year, compiled by 72andSunny. For all the optimistic talk of love, sadly it's the dark stuff which resonates longer, and gives us good reason to be nervous about how 2017 will play out. Hope for the best, but be prepared for more of the worst...

Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Nov 2016: Google parent Alphabet Inc delivered strong continuing growth in 3Q, with revenues jumping by 20% to over $22bn, while net income soared 27% to over $5bn. Both figures were ahead of expectations. Search-based advertising, especially on mobile devices, continues to drive the business, accounting for essentially all revenues and profits. The group's more experimental "other bets", like Google Fiber high-speed internet and Nest internet-connected home sensors, generated combined operating losses of $0.9bn on revenues of just $197m.

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