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The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. on September 2, 2011. AFP PHOTO/KIMIHIRO HOSHINO (Photo credit should read KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)
It's actually neither. Rather, it's Google being Google. The mighty search colossus missed earnings badly the other day. Meanwhile, Apple just crushed it, earnings-wise. And of course the Facebook IPO looms. Google can't be content to operate like the world's greatest technology lab anymore. It needs to leverage what it's great at or lose out to the competition.
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Google reported fourth quarter earnings today and missed Wall Street's estimates by a country mile. Investors were looking for $10.51 per share. They got $9.50. This immediately gave some Google bears justification for cutting their target prices for the Internet search giant — and for making even more drastic pronouncements. For example (this is from MarketWatch):
“Is the post-Google era upon us?” asked analyst Scott Devitt of Morgan Stanley in a note to clients. He cut his price target to $590 from $642 while leaving his rating at equal-weight, or neutral.
Other analysts are keeping their calls for Google in the stratosphere. But the fourth quarter miss might be signaling something more ominous — or optimistic, depending on your perspective — than the end of the Google Age.
The beginning of the Facebook Age.
If Facebook stages, as expected, an IPO later this year, it could become overnight a $100 billion company, by market capitalization, raising $10 billion in the process. There's every possibility that investors are preparing for this earthshaking event. Google's struggles provide an ideal excuse for them to trim their Google positions to prepare to move into Facebook.
Facebook shares will be prices at a premium, given that the company probably isn't planning on selling very much of itself in its IPO, continuing a recent trend of tech companies limiting the initial "float" of shares to command a higher valuation.
So Google is under pressure at almost the same time that Facebook is poised to capture investor attention and shift the tech world decisively toward a more social, less search-driven model. Web and mobile users are spending their time on these sites and with their apps, so this is where the action is. The big question is whether they'll be able to make money off advertising in the same bountiful way that Google has from search.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters on October 6, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.
OK, maybe not the worst thing. But according to Harvard Business Review blogger Daniel Gulati, not exactly a force for happiness:
When Facebook was founded in 2004, it began with a seemingly innocuous mission: to connect friends. Some seven years and 800 million users later, the social network has taken over most aspects of our personal and professional lives, and is fast becoming the dominant communication platform of the future.
But this new world of ubiquitous connections has a dark side. In my last post, I noted that Facebook and social media are major contributors to career anxiety. After seeing some of the comments and reactions to the post, it's clear that Facebook in particular takes it a step further: It's actually making us miserable.
He goes on. This is my favorite part:
[Facebook is] creating a den of comparison. Since our Facebook profiles are self-curated, users have a strong bias toward sharing positive milestones and avoid mentioning the more humdrum, negative parts of their lives. Accomplishments like, "Hey, I just got promoted!" or "Take a look at my new sports car," trump sharing the intricacies of our daily commute or a life-shattering divorce. This creates an online culture of competition and comparison. One interviewee even remarked, "I'm pretty competitive by nature, so when my close friends post good news, I always try and one-up them."
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A man checks his email on a Blackberry.
Attack the iPhone, get over 210,00 page views. That's what Business Insider's Matt Lynley has achieved with this post about why he likes the BlackBerry more than the iPhone.
OK, it's a slide show. That's part one of what I should recognize by now as a classic bit of BI linkbaiting-and-switiching. It's also a bait-and-switch in that Lynley only seems to prefer the BlackBerry because he's bored with the iPhone, which he's been using for four years.
However, he makes a very salient point along the way.
The BlackBerry still absolutely kills it with email. So it was in the beginning. And so it is still.
There's a whole grand saga playing itself out in the mediasphere these days, as business-minded BlackBerry users (read: productive types) grapple with the decline of BlackBerry's makers, Research in Motion, and adapt themselves to the giddy world of the iPhone, much of which seems designed for esthetes and teenagers (read: they like toys), but which is...getting better at the whole enterprise thing.
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Google Plus challenging the social media dominance of Facebook and Twitter
Bloggers have traditionally been core users of Google Reader. We need the tool to keep track of the blogosphere and have a single interface through which all posts flow. However, outside the blogging world, Google Reader is being displaced by a deluge of social-media products, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google's own Google Plus.
Meanwhile, Google has been rolling out a comprehensive redesign of all its interfaces. Reader got sucked in, much to the displeasure of the blogging community. Nobody seems to like it, but then again, those nobodies are all old-fogey bloggers who ruled the realm in 2007 but are now ready to be put out to pasture.
The biggest complaint is that all sharing is now being bent to the will of Google Plus. Gotta get those fossils out of the second George W. Bush administration!