Google is expected to deliver strong second quarter results on Thursday. The company's position as king of search is sound. Its mobile OS Android is dominating smartphone markets around the world. And in slowly increasing numbers, tablet-makers are delivering stronger tablet PCs that use Android's latest implementation, a trend that could snip away at Apple's iPad position. Additionally, Google is exanding the complexity and breadth of its technology and content offerings.
This is the rosy message that Larry Page is expected to deliver. There are just a few small flies in the ointment, however.
Over previous quarterly results, Google has performed well against the average of Wall Street expectations. Based on current thinking, we should see a revenue increas of 30% from a year ago, from Google. The company is actually ahead of its promised goal of recruiting at least 6,200 extra workers before 2012, having hired nearly 4,500 already.
The thing is, that 30% growth is said to represent a slight slow-down in revenue growth, compared to the 32% growth shown in the second quarter over the 2010 quarterly figures, a result fueled by instabilities in its core advertising market. This, by itself, may be taken as a sign that the economy itself is stuttering.
But investors are nervous about Google's plans in mobile, exemplified by its surprising $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility--a buy-out that is absolutely intended to reinforce Android's position in the ever-more-important smartphone market, but which has left almost as many questions in the air as it seems to answer, particularly when it comes to Motorola's potentially preferred position as an Android handset maker. Google's strange behavior in bidding for Nortel's patent treasure-trove (bidding a multiple of Pi, for example) could also be taken as a sign the company isn't serious about its obligations.
Google was said, by some, to be poised to capitalize on weaknesses in Apple after the untimely death of Steve Jobs. Whether or not that's true (and we're dubious) Google was definitely guilty of some confusing tactics in the aftermath of Jobs' death last week--particularly when it comes to the cancellation or delay of its next flagship Google-branded Android phone, bearing the next iteration of the OS dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich.
Google and Samsung mutually announced a delay of the device, and then shortly afterward attributed the delay to respect for Steve Jobs. Questions about this were quickly raised, with the suggestion that Google was actually wrestling with a patent matter, and Google suggested this wasn't the case. The Samsung event is now on again, a mere handful of days later, but Google hardly comported itself with grace (which could be taken as a sign of problems in management).
Almost none of this speculation will be addressed in the earnings call, we guess. But we have a laundry list of facts and figures and announcements we'd love to hear Page reveal:
How many people are using Google+ and what are its month-on-month growth figures (to answer recent allegations it's in steep decline)?
How are Google's advertising revenues split between mobile and static web businesses?
How much money is the company actually making from revenues directly attributed to Android? This figure would let us know how bright the future of the OS looks, which should be important to Amazon, given that the company is using Android in its new Kindle Fire, but has all but buried any connection to Google otherwise.
We'd also like to hear Page speak candidly about: his plans for Motorola; the implications of Microsoft's ever-widening licensing fee-grabs for patented technology found in Android; and about how Google Voice and voice-controlled search will expand to deal with the threat raised by Apple and its revolutionary Siri tech.
Odds are Page and associates won't address these issues directly...but we can dream. We have to dream because there's a sneaky suspicion that even after its management shenanigans Google has become too reliable, too solid, too boring to surprise us.