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Google Has Its Head in the Cloud

Google's big focus on the earnings call wasn't Play or YouTube. It was the cloud.


In Alphabet’s final earnings call as one big company, its executives gave a strong hint of what they sees as a key growth driver for Google’s business beyond search: The cloud.

The company posted better-than-expected third quarter results, plus a juicy $5 billion(ish) share buyback that together shot its stock up more than 10 percent. On the call with analysts, however, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and CFO Ruth Porat offered few if any new details on the direction of Google’s core business. There was repeated talk of the work on mobile search, although the execs stressed it was “in the early innings,” in Porat’s words.

The pair were, however, eager to talk about Google’s business selling cloud storage space to companies. After shedding most of its early enterprise efforts, Google dusted off a new cloud service a few years ago under veteran SVP Urs Hölzle. It is still nascent, and competes with a powerful, fast-growing business from Amazon. Yet Pichai stressed that it was a priority for his Google.

“Cloud is also a growing area where we see great opportunity, and we’re building a fantastic service that we’ll keep investing in,” he said on the call.

Like most of its products, Google does not break out revenue for cloud. The service sits inside “Other Revenues,” which grew 11 percent annually during the quarter to $1.89 billion. Google has said that this revenue bucket’s growth is “primarily due” to the Google Play Store. The Information has reported that Google’s cloud business will clock in at $400 million in revenue for all of 2015 (with one big buyer, Snapchat, responsible for around a tenth of that).

Interestingly, Pichai and Porat spent little time discussing Play Store. Compared to earlier calls, they didn’t dwell on YouTube either. Those are typically cited as the two biggest drivers of growth inside Google proper, outside of search.

They did want to talk cloud.

On the earnings call, Pichai noted that Google’s Drive for Work, its unlimited cloud storage offering, has surpassed one million paying enterprise customers. And when asked if Google plans to cash in on some of its core assets with a billion-plus users, like Maps, Pichai turned it back to the cloud. “By the way,” he said, “because we are scaling all of these apps for over a billion users, we are powering the infrastructure, which will drive our cloud business.”

Amazon also reported strong earnings today. Its cloud offering, Amazon Web Services, reported $2.1 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 78 percent annual growth.

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