Friday, 16 November 2012

Google Doodles and the Investors Behind Them

Google Doodles and the Investors Behind Them

By Tom Copeland

Google has long been known to beloved users and to this writer as pretty much the only search engine with personality, to internet and tech speculators as a business and industry innovator, and to early stock investors as an absolutely boon for their retirement accounts. Probing all 3 could give us some insight into the big G's think tank and whatever the big announcement the company is expected to release today at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, and could result in a nice bump in the stock price.

You've undoubtedly seen and enjoyed the "Google Doodles" on holidays, which refer to the cute and commemorative animations that appear on Google's homepage just above the search box periodically. Whether it be Santa on a sled overtop a home with the Christmas lights spelling out the company's name, or more recently, their April Fool's joke logos (this year Google "announced" on July 1st they would be switching names with Topeka, Kansas, citing, "Topeka voted to bring super-fast broadband to the residents of the Capital city through a program Google has launched; Google was flattered and wanted to return a nice gesture. Topeka, in return, would rename themselves Google, Kansas"), Google loves to display those doodles.

The Google Doodles are at it again, but with no specific holiday or event to attribute the new doodles to, Internet-wide speculation has been sparked and the rumors are flying. You may have noticed yesterday on the Google homepage the flash animation above the search box of little colored balls that would fly in every direction when a mouse barreled through them, only to settle into the familiar Google logo we're used to on boring and uneventful days.

The Google logo is all grey upon first impression. Start typing, however, and the letters begin to colorize. So, why all the effort?

Today, Google is taking over the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco for a search event led by some of the company's top executives and engineers. The event was announced last Friday, and via a Twitter message, Google hinted the company has an announcement to make, but it's really anyone's guess.

It's obvious to me that Google has some feature or product or update they will be rolling out, and the doodles and Twitter messages is their way of saying "it's something big". The animations have one thing in common - an example of how the interface and components of a web page can be manipulated without actually clicking anything. While that may be old technology (Adobe pioneered Flash years ago), it's technology that Google has never particularly embraced.

We'll simply just have to wait and see what Google says at the Museum of Modern Art later today. In the meantime, it's worth noting what a powerful and disruptive company Google has been since its 1998 launch and subsequent initial public offering a year later. The company's stock price has multiplied five-fold in just over 10 years, a nearly unheard of feat of impressive growth.

Early this year, Google also changed the corporate landscape not just for American companies but for an entire overseas country, and everyone who watched the debacle. The company made a bold and public exit from China, with CEO Eric Schmidt saying in a Newsweek article, "this isn't a business decision. This was a responsibility decision", after a hacker attack on human rights activist's private Gmail accounts was eventually traced to a Chinese University. The move says a lot about how company balances and behaves between the interest of its own principles and of their stockholders. Moving out of China is a terrible move from a business standpoint - they stand to lose 17% of their market share to Chinese rival search engine Baidu, who owns nearly 70% of the market share, in what is considered by some as the largest market in the world.

But from a corporate responsibility and ethics standpoint, it's an absolute triumph. On one of the last pages in its IPO, Google wrote a clause disclaiming that the company may not always act in the interests of the stockholders; that there may come a time when it will make decisions based on its character morals and standards for doing business. To decision to pull out of China and stand up for what the company believes in is a breath of fresh air in our scandal-plagues era or corporate irresponsibility.

Shares of Google are currently trading up just a fraction of a percent, but if the weight of the announcement today is powerful enough to move the market, intuition suggest it will move higher. I wouldn't say the price of Google's share is inflated, and it's too early to assume the news of today's announcement is built into the price. In the end, regardless of the announcement and whether or not the stock moves today, there's a lot to be proud of as a Google shareholder.

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