Investors are watching Google (s goog) closely to see if the company can adapt to a world where more and more searches take place on smartphones and in apps. Today, the company rolled out an impressive sounding figure but provided few details about what it means.
On an afternoon earnings call, Google announced it had a run rate of $8 billion from its mobile business, consisting of revenue from ads, apps and content.
CEO Larry Page, still hoarse from a voice problem that silenced him for months, stated that the vast majority of that mobile revenue came from ads and that mobile is a “significant portion” compared to desktop ads. He declined, however, to provide specific figures or to disclose the margins Google is making on apps and content in the Play store.
The CEO likewise deflected a question about whether desktop ad revenue had “flat-lined,” and declined to say whether it was a matter of quarters or years before mobile revenue caught up. He did, however, say that for now few people were using Google Chrome browser on their mobile device — implying that future broader adoption will trigger a new rush of ad revenue and e-commerce.
What all this means is that those trying to read Google’s mobile tea leaves will have to wait to learn whether the company really has adapted its search money machine for the smartphone era. The $8 billion figure could thus either represent more big time growth at Google or, alternately, the start of stagnation.
The call came after a disastrous morning in which Google spooked the market by mistakenly releasing its earnings four hours early and, worse, posting horrid results. Trading in the company’s shares was briefly halted and the shares ultimately lost $60, finishing the day down eight percent.
Page and the executives, however, remained relentlessly upbeat on the call, pointing to four macro-trends they claim will benefit Google: 1) the rise of the “multi-screen consumer” which will allow marketers to reach them closer to points of purchase; 2) the ability to deliver more precise shopping information to consumers; 3) Google’s ability to sell advertising across a growing number of “technology stacks,” including YouTube and Google+; 4) the company’s growing traction in cloud computing and enterprise products.