It was a tale of two tech companies and their quarterly results after the bell on Tuesday.
Microsoft reported the tech equivalent of a hat trick. For the quarter, Microsoft reported profit and revenue that topped expectations, and the company forecast double-digit revenue growth for the next fiscal year.
Microsoft forecast Intelligent Cloud revenue of $21.1 billion to $21.35 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter. That is compared with a Wall Street consensus of $20.933 billion, according to Refinitiv data. Microsoft & Google’s parent Alphabet recorded results on Tuesday
“It was a record third quarter, driven by the continued strength of the Microsoft Cloud, which surpassed $23 billion in revenue, up 32% year-over-year,” said CEO Satya Nadella, in the post-earnings call. “Going forward, digital technology will be the key input that powers the world’s economic output.”
The company reported revenue of $49.36 billion, compared with $41.7 billion a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $49.05 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
Net income rose to $16.73 billion, or $2.22 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $15.46 billion, or $2.03 per share, a year earlier. That topped analyst targets of $2.19.
In contrast, Google parent Alphabet Inc reported that Google Cloud’s growth rate in the first quarter fell slightly to 43.8%, from 44.6% in the 2021 fourth quarter. Alphabet’s first-quarter revenue came in below expectations.
Shares were down 4% in after-hours trading after the company posted its slowest quarterly revenue growth since 2020.
Alphabet’s revenue during the January-March period totaled $68 billion, a 23% increase from the same time last year. The figure fell about $40 million below the average estimate among analysts polled by FactSet Research.
Wall Street’s favorite FAANG is mired in its worst monthly stock performance in two years and analysts are counting on earnings to pull it out of the tailspin. Google owner Alphabet Inc. is down about 13% in April, erasing $237 billion in market value as jittery investors dump growth stocks amid fears of bigger and faster rate hikes thanks to rising inflation.
Investors still love shares of companies that beat expectations and raise guidance. So it’s no wonder that Alphabet shares were up some 11% to an all-time high in pre-market trade on February 2.
The catalyst is the company’s fourth quarter revenue and earnings — which exceeded investor expectations. According to CNBC, Alphabet’s revenue increased 32% to $75.33 billion — $3.17 billion more than expected while its earnings per share of $30.69 was 12% above the Refinitiv consensus.
Alphabet has another advantage when it comes to boosting its stock price — most people in the world use its services many times a day. Those satisfied customers might be inclined to follow the dictum of Fidelity Magellan ex-honcho, Peter Lynch, and invest in what they know.
Sadly, that has been difficult in the last several years because of Alphabet’s high stock price. But that problem could be alleviated through Google’s plan for a July 15 “20-for-1 stock split in the form of a one-time special stock dividend,” according to Bloomberg.
At least one tech giant has decided it’s better to serve banks rather than taking them head on. Google is shuttering its bank account product nearly two years after announcing ambitious plans to take on the retail finance industry. One key factor: The new head of the business, Bill Ready, decided that he’d rather develop a digital banking and payments ecosystem instead of competing with banks, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
For the past few years, bank executives and investors have shuddered whenever a tech giant disclosed plans to break into finance. With good reason: Tech giants have access to hundreds of millions of users and their data and a track record for transforming industries like media and advertising.
But the reality has proven less disruptive so far. While Amazon was reportedly exploring bank accounts in 2018, the project has yet to materialize. Uber reined in its fintech ambitions last year. Facebook was forced to rebrand its crypto project amid a series of setbacks.
“We’re updating our approach to focus primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
Google, which is owned by parent company Alphabet, could help banks provide more secure ways for consumers to make online purchases like via virtual cards or single-use tokens. That’s according to the person with knowledge of the company who declined to be identified speaking about business strategy. Those methods cut down on fraud by protecting users’ credit-card numbers.
Google may have ultimately decided it wasn’t worth antagonizing current and prospective customers for its various businesses, including cloud computing, according to a Friday research note from Wells Fargo banking analyst Mike Mayo.
In recent years, Google has funneled more resources to its cloud business, which still lags behind Amazon and Microsoft in market share. However, it has made steady gains under cloud boss Thomas Kurian, who, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, has repeatedly touted financial services as a target in terms of customers they hope to attract.
“Banks are worried about disintermediation, and I think it’s likely that Google executives were getting signals that banks weren’t on board with what Google was going to do,” said Peter Wannemacher, a Forrester Research analyst who advises banks on digital efforts. “They made the bet that there was a greater gain in selling to banks rather than selling to customers.”
Being the customer-facing entity for banks may have risked inviting greater regulatory and Congressional scrutiny, he said. As it is, the public has already become suspicious of technology firms’ reach, he added.
“Financial services is a difficult space to get into,” Wannemacher said. “Everyone knows that, but it’s often more vexing and knotty than people expect.”
The U.S. government is secretly ordering Google to provide data on anyone typing in certain search terms, an accidentally unsealed court document shows. There are fears such “keyword warrants” threaten to implicate innocent Web users in serious crimes and are more common than previously thought.
In 2019, federal investigators in Wisconsin were hunting men they believed had participated in the trafficking and sexual abuse of a minor. She had gone missing that year but had emerged claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted, according to a search warrant reviewed by Forbes. In an attempt to chase down the perpetrators, investigators turned to Google, asking the tech giant to provide information on anyone who had searched for the victim’s name, two spellings of her mother’s name or her address over 16 days across the year. After being asked to provide all relevant Google accounts and IP addresses of those who made the searches, Google responded with data in mid-2020, though the court documents do not reveal how many users had their data sent to the government.
It’s a rare example of a so-called keyword warrant and, with the number of search terms included, the broadest on record. (See the update below for other, potentially even broader warrants.) Before this latest case, only two keyword warrants had been made public. One revealed in 2020 asked for anyone who had searched for the address of an arson victim who was a witness in the government’s racketeering case against singer R Kelly. Another, detailed in 2017, revealed that a Minnesota judge signed off on a warrant asking Google to provide information on anyone who searched a fraud victim’s name from within the city of Edina, where the crime took place.
While Google deals with thousands of such orders every year, the keyword warrant is one of the more contentious. In many cases, the government will already have a specific Google account that they want information on and have proof it’s linked to a crime. But search term orders are effectively fishing expeditions, hoping to ensnare possible suspects whose identities the government does not know. It’s not dissimilar to so-called geofence warrants, where investigators ask Google to provide information on anyone within the location of a crime scene at a given time.
“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson said.
The latest case shows Google is continuing to comply with such controversial requests, despite concerns over their legality and the potential to implicate innocent people who happened to search for the relevant terms. From the government’s perspective in Wisconsin, the scope of the warrant should have been limited enough to avoid the latter: the number of people searching for the specific names, address or phone number in the given time frame was likely to be low. But privacy experts are concerned about the precedent set by such warrants and the potential for any such order to be a breach of Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches. There are also concerns about First Amendment freedom of speech issues, given the potential to cause anxiety amongst Google users that their identities could be handed to the government because of what they searched for.
“Trawling through Google’s search history database enables police to identify people merely based on what they might have been thinking about, for whatever reason, at some point in the past. This is a virtual dragnet through the public’s interests, beliefs, opinions, values and friendships, akin to mind reading powered by the Google time machine,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people, especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame not precise. To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation.”
The Wisconsin case was supposed to have remained secret, too. The warrant only came to light because it was accidentally unsealed by the Justice Department in September. Forbes reviewed the document before it was sealed again and is neither publishing it nor providing full details of the case to protect the identities of the victim and her family. The investigation is ongoing, two years after the crimes occurred, and the DOJ didn’t comment on whether or not any charges had been filed.
Forbes was able to identify one other, previously unreported keyword warrant in the Northern District of California in December 2020, though its existence was only noted in a court docket. It also has the potential to be broad. The order, currently under seal, is titled “Application by the United States for a Search Warrant for Google Accounts Associated with Six Search Terms and Four Search Dates.”
There’s more that the government can get with such requests than simple Google account identities and IP addresses. In Wisconsin, the government was hopeful Google could also provide “CookieIDs” belonging to any users who made the searches. These CookieIDs “are identifiers that are used to group together all searches conducted from a given machine, for a certain time period. Such information allows investigators to ascertain, even when the user is not logged into a Google account, whether the same individual may have conducted multiple pertinent searches,” the government wrote.
There was another disturbing aspect to the search warrant: the government had published the kidnapping victim’s name, her Facebook profile (now no longer accessible), her phone number and address, a potential breach of a minor’s privacy. The government has now sealed the document, though was only alerted to the leak after Forbes emailed the Justice Department for comment. That mistake—of revealing the identity of minor victims of sexual abuse in court documents—has become a common one in recent years. As in the latest case, the FBI and DHS have been seen choosing pseudonyms and acronyms for victims, but then publishing their full Facebook profile link, which contains the name of the minor.
UPDATE: After publication, Jennifer Lynch, surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), highlighted three other Google keyword warrants that were used in the investigation into serial Austin bombings in 2018, which resulted in the deaths of two people.
Not widely discussed at the time, the orders appear even broader than the one above, asking for IP addresses and Google account information of individuals who searched for various addresses and some terms associated with bomb making, such as “low explosives” and “pipe bomb.” Similar orders were served on Microsoft and Yahoo for their respective search engines.
As for what data the tech companies gave to investigators, that information remains under seal.
I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’m also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world surveillance and all the biggest cybersecurity stories of the week. It goes out every Monday and you can sign up here: https://www.forbes.com/newsletter/thewiretap
I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice, Wired and the BBC, amongst many others.
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BRUSSELS— Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG -0.88% Google started its appeal Monday to overturn a $5 billion antitrust fine imposed by the European Union, contending that its Android operating system for mobile devices has boosted competition rather than foreclosing it.
The tech giant presented oral arguments in Luxembourg before the EU’s second-highest court, in its appeal to overturn the 2018 decision from the bloc’s antitrust enforcer. In that case, EU authorities found Google had illegally abused the market power of Android to push companies that manufacture and distribute Android phones into agreements aimed at entrenching and expanding the dominance of the Google search engine on mobile devices.
That decision was the largest of three antitrust fines totaling more than $9 billion that the EU has levied against Google in the past half decade. It also ordered changes to the distribution agreements buttressing one of the company’s biggest growth engines: search ads on mobile phones.
“Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” a Google spokeswoman said. “This case isn’t supported by the facts or the law.”
A verdict isn’t expected for months, and it can be appealed to the EU’s top court, the Court of Justice. Still, the litigation is a new test for the EU’s competition and digital-policy chief, Margrethe Vestager, who already faces a pending appeal of an earlier decision against Google’s alleged abuse of the dominance of its search engine to favor its online-shopping ads.
Ms. Vestager has since opened a new antitrust probe into Google’s ad-tech business, along with a wave of cases exploring whether companies including Facebook Inc.,Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. abuse their dominance to drive out smaller rivals. The companies deny wrongdoing.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust regulator, declined to comment.
While the appeal is under way, Google has had to comply with the decision, offering all users of new Android phones in the EU a choice screen of alternative search engines. But so far Google’s market share for search on mobile phones has remained relatively stable, according to Statcounter.
At issue in the hearing this week is whether Google’s Android is indeed dominant, as European regulators argue, and whether Google’s distribution deals for the operating system and its Google Play app store for Android were anticompetitive.
The Commission has argued that Google used those agreements to block the rise of potential competitors and secure the dominance of its cash cow search engine on mobile phones—an outcome far from assured at the time.
The Commission found Google had abused its control of the Android operating system by forcing phone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser if they also wanted to include Google’s Play store for apps, by far the most common way to get Android apps.
The Commission also found Google’s so-called antifragmentation agreements—deals that discourage official Android manufacturers from selling devices that run unofficial, modified versions of Android—illegally blocked the development and emergence of competing operating systems.
“Instead of an antifragmentation agreement, it should be called an anticompetition agreement,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer representing FairSearch, a group representing Oracle Inc. and other companies whose 2013 complaint led the Commission to open a formal case investigating Android in 2015.
Apple and Google have one of Silicon Valley’s most famous rivalries, but behind the scenes they maintain a deal worth $8 billion to $12 billion a year according to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. Here’s how they came to depend on each other. Photo illustration: Jaden Urbi
Google argues that those analyses are flawed. It says Android devices must compete with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and the Commission was wrong to largely exclude them from its analysis. The company argues that its antifragmentation agreements are necessary to keep Android phones compatible with apps, and aren’t a barrier to creating competing operating systems.
Google also says the allegation that it blocked competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many rival apps on Android devices, and consumers can easily download others. The company says it has a right to recoup the money it spends developing Android, which it makes available free to manufacturers, by encouraging them to install Google Search, from which the company makes the bulk of its revenue.
Google and the Commission will be joined in this week’s arguments by nearly a dozen outside companies and trade groups that have filed their own supporting briefs in the case. Google’s supporters include the Computer & Communications Industry Association and two handset manufacturers.
Arguments on the Commission’s side will include some from German publisher groups and complainants in the case, including FairSearch.
“Vulkan on Android”. NVIDIA Developer. February 10, 2016. Archived from the original on January 23, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018. Vulkan 1.1 is available as a Developer Preview OTA for the NVIDIA SHIELD TV.
Google was hit with a $593 million (€500 Million) fine by antitrust regulators in France on Monday after the company failed to offer a fair deal to local publishers for hosting their news content on its platform, adding to the list of several large fines the U.S. tech giant has copped in Europe in the past few years.
The ruling comes after Google failed to comply with an April 2020 decision by the French regulators to negotiate a deal “in good faith” with publishers to carry snippets of their content on its Google News platform. As part of the ruling, the French Competition Authority has ordered Google to come up with an remuneration offer for its use of the news snippets within two months.
If the tech giant fails to meet the deadline, it will face penalty payments of up to $1 million (€900,000) per day of delay. In a statement shared with Forbes, Google said it was “very disappointed” with the ruling and it believes it had “acted in good faith throughout the entire process.” The company added that it is about to reach a global licensing agreement with the French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), but did not provide a timeline.
Google will be able to appeal Tuesday’s fine, but it is unclear if it will choose to do so.
“The sanction of 500 million euros takes into account the exceptional seriousness of the breaches observed and how Google’s behavior has led to further delay of the proper application of the law…which aimed to better take into account the value of content from publishers and news agencies included on the platforms,” Isabelle de Silva, president of the French Competition Authority said in an official statement.
Tuesday’s fine is the second-biggest antitrust penalty a single company has faced in France. Last year, the competition regulator hit Apple with a $1.2 billion fine after the company was found to have signed anti-competitive agreements with two distributors over the sale of non-iPhone products such as Apple Mac computers. Apple has appealed the ruling.
Publishers in Europe have clashed with Google multiple times in the past year, accusing the tech giant of luring away billions of euros in advertising money from the publishers while leveraging their content. Particularly contentious has been the company’s Google News platform which hosts snippets of news stories from publishers without paying them. On the flipside, publishers are unable to yank their content from Google’s platform as they rely on it heavily to drive traffic to their sites.
Earlier this year, Google managed to reach a $76 million deal to pay a group of 121 French Newspapers. But the AFP and other French publishers who were not part of the deal expressed anger and slammed Google for being opaque. De Silva has dismissed that deal and criticized Google for limiting the scope of the negotiations, excluding agency content like photos, and offering to pay the same amount for news content that it does for dictionary listings or weather information.
I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018. Have a news tip? DMs are open on Twitter @SiladityaRay or drop me an email at email@example.com.
Google said it was very disappointed with the decision but would comply. “Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers,” the U.S. tech giant said.
A Google spokesperson added: “We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.”
The framework agreement, which many other French media outlets criticized, was one of the highest-profile deals under Google’s “News Showcase” programme to provide compensation for news snippets used in search results, and the first of its kind in Europe.
Google agreed to pay $76 million over three years to a group of 121 French news publishers to end the copyright row, documents seen by Reuters showed. It followed months of bargaining between Google, French publishers and news agencies over how to apply the revamped EU copyright rules, which allow publishers to demand a fee from online platforms showing extracts of their news. read more