clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Google is worried about finding its next Alphabet business after search

What to look for in Alphabet first-quarter earnings.

Steve Jennings | Getty Images

Later today, Google will release its financial numbers for the umpteenth time — but only the second time since it divvied up its reporting in two — one for the core Google business and another for its sundry, far-out “Other Bets.”

So, we’ll get more of the same story … and maybe a new one!

Wall Street is largely bullish on the first quarter for parent Alphabet, as Google continues to benefit from the shift of ad money online (which has helped YouTube). Analysts are expecting net revenue (ad sales minus commissions paid to partner sites) of around $16.56 billion and profit of $7.96 a share. Last quarter, Alphabet handily beat expectations.

Yet there’s the dogged concern that the business remains dependent on search ads, which make less bang per buck on mobile phones, where users are going in droves.

Here are the key things to look for with the report today:


  • Mobile ad gap: Barring some miracle, Google won’t give any specific figures on its mobile ad rates. But expect execs to reassure investors it is up, to the right and closing in on the desktop rates. Some market evidence, specifically on the growth in shopping ads and app installs, suggests this is true.
  • Cloud and Play: One of the more interesting lines in Google’s numbers, for my money, is “other revenues.” This includes hardware sales (Nexus phones, Chromecast sticks), but also enterprise and digital media sales. These last two are businesses Google is prioritizing. In the first quarter last year, “other revenues” were $1.75 billion, or 12.5 percent of net sales.

Other Bets

  • Costs: In a minimal gesture of transparency, Alphabet now shares the sales, losses and costs of its non-Google operations. They aren’t broken down by individual companies. But this will be the first time we see a quarterly figure for the Other Bets; it was an annual number last quarter. In 2015, the units lost $3.57 billion and sucked up $869 million in capital expenditure. Still, Google was far more costly.
  • Fiber and Nest sales: Tea leaf time! Other Bet revenue has come from Fiber, its broadband and cable unit; Nest, its beleaguered smart device company; and Verily, its medical unit. We won’t see how much comes from each — our reporting tells us Nest had about three-fourths of the $448 million last year, followed by Fiber. Mark Mahaney from RBC Capital pegged overall quarterly sales at $110 million; other analysts didn’t bother to hazard a guess.
  • Alphabet troubles: Part of the impetus for Alphabet was the formation of smaller independent companies, designed to be “startups” where Googlers could go tackle moonshots with fewer bureaucratic hangups. That’s had some bumps. Evidence is cropping up, particularly with Verily and Nest, that Googlers would prefer to stay with Google. We’ll be watching to see if investors care about these issues and how Alphabet execs handle them.

Finally, there’s the nasty European Union charges against Android, which landed on Wednesday. These were expected. But if the case gets ugly, it could threaten Google’s ability to grow two critical pillars — mobile ads and Play store revenue — on the continent. So far, though, Wall Street has barely batted an eye on the whole affair.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.