Alphabet Tracker: Future City

Alphabet (GOOG) races against Amazon to break the coveted $1,000 milestone in 2017. Both companies have been boosted by strong Q1 earnings in the past few weeks.

For Alphabet, shares leaped nearly 4 percent at Friday morning’s open (April 28) following a major beat on both revenue and earnings per share — and GOOG has been climbing since then. (Looks like the offensive content controversy and feared advertiser flight back in March didn’t have much of an effect, though Q2 results might paint a different picture.)

GOOG was flirting with all-time highs as trading on Tuesday (May 9) began, opening at $961.00 even. Since then, the price has fallen a bit, with shares at the time of writing trading at $954.95, down 0.18 percent from Tuesday’s close.

For Q1, Alphabet reported revenue of $24.7 billion, up 22 percent year-on-year and above analysts’ forecast of $24.22 billion. Google’s ad revenue was up 18.8 percent to $21.41 billion, with paid clicks up 44 percent in the quarter, a huge beat on the 29.7 percent growth expected.

Alphabet’s earnings per share came in at $7.73 per share, well above expectations of $7.34. Analysts still have lingering concerns that as the market continues to mature, Alphabet will need to continue casting a wider net.

One of the ways Alphabet looks to do this is through producing more original content for YouTube—as the company looks to produce some 40 original shows and movies in the coming year, including 6 which will appear for free.

The move comes as Alphabet tries to draw more advertising dollars online (and away from television). Bloomberg noted that Alphabet already sold more ads than the entire U.S. television industry in Q1.

“We’re turning the infrastructure we’ve built for original programming into supporting our biggest partners,’’ Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, was quoted as saying. “Nobody is doing it the way we are. Nobody can release originals on a global basis with the scale we have in advertising.’’

Along with putting a reported hundreds of millions of dollars into the new original series and films, Alphabet is also increasing overall spend on its paid music and video streaming service YouTube Red.

Elsewhere in the ecosystem, a report from 9to5google suggests that Google might be gearing up to introduce facial recognition authentication measures for loyalty rewards in Android Pay.

An APK did a tear-down of Android Pay Version 1.22 and found Visual ID, a feature that is described by Google as a “secure way to confirm your identity at participating stores, making it easier to do things like earn loyalty points and redeem rewards.”

With Visual ID, loyalty points could be automatically applied to purchases made using Android Pay. The feature would use Bluetooth to pinpoint a customer’s location and require an in-store camera to take a photo of the buyer to confirm his or her identity.

While, from the looks of it, the process isn’t quite as frictionless as Google’s Hands Free (whose pilot test ended in February of this year), the incorporation of facial recognition into the Andriod Pay could be an interesting opportunity for Google to test, grow and develop its strong authentication chops.

If the feature does roll out and sees some success among consumers, it’s not hard to imagine it could be leveraged for additional purposes (*ahem* payments proper).

Meanwhile, in Canada, Alphabet looks to construct its own high-tech city.

The company’s urban innovation unit Sidewalk Labs recently applied to develop a 12-acre swath of land on Toronto’s waterfront. The unit is perhaps best known for its work in the LinkNYC project to install thousands of Wi-Fi broadcasting kiosks across New York City boroughs.

While details on the latest project in Toronto are scarce for the time being, said Bloomberg, the plan is likely, given Sidewalk Labs’ mission and past work, to develop the land into a highly connected, smart urban district.

The innovation unit’s potential project in Canada will certainly be one to watch moving forward.

Last up in this edition of Alphabet tracker comes the recent news that, late last week, approximately one million Gmail users (or about 0.1 percent of total users) were affected by an email phishing scam.

Users received an email in which it appeared a contact had shared a document with them via Google Docs. If they opened the document, users were brought to a real Google page that required a login and permissions to access email account data.

When prompted to continue to Google Docs, users were actually granting permissions to a malicious third-party web app that had been named “Google Docs.” Hackers could then use the permissions to access email accounts, contacts and online documents.

The malware then sent copies of the phishing email to users’ contacts list. The attack affected users ranging from individual personal accounts to U.S. state governments.

The attack seems to only have leveraged email contacts to propagate. None have reported financial or data loss.

Still, the attack cost the state of Minnesota an estimated $90,000, noted BBC News, after some 2,500 state employees received the email. The cost estimate comes from the average amount of time it took affected employees to deal with the attack.

Google reported it was able to thwart the attack within an hour.


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