Sure, the flying car sightings reported in October created buzz. And Google Glass was all the hype in 2014. Now there is talk of Alphabet’s Pixel taking the smartphone market by storm and dethroning the iPhone.
Does that last one sound far-fetched? You bet. Especially with reports echoing across the internet of recent Pixel buyers from a New Hampshire dealer being locked out of their Google accounts, an experience likened to a “digital death sentence.”
Alphabet is all about the data, and not tech. At least, not tech hardware.
“Profit-wise, Alphabet is totally an advertising company and the most successful one by far.” said Einbender Capital portfolio manager James Gryta.
And because of its corporate restructuring, its CFO, Ruth Porat, can start treating it that way.
For proof, just look at last quarter’s revenue for Google, which includes the golden egg-laying goose of digital advertising. It generated $22.25 billion, an increase of 20 percent year-over-year. Compare that with Other Bets, the high-maintenance herd of tech gadgetry moonshots ranging from drone delivery systems to self-driving cars. Other Bets pulled in $197 million but suffered an operating loss of $865 million.
With a slew of new Other Bets toys hitting the market, such as Google Home, an Amazon Echo competitor for those in need of a virtual assistant, or the Daydream View, a virtual reality headset, even bullish analysts will admit that these only have value insofar as it increases Google’s data-hoard.
“None of the products represent a revolutionary change in thinking, in our view,” said Ali Mogharabi, a Morningstar equity analyst who recommends buying the stock.
Alphabet faces “fierce competitors in the consumer hardware markets,” but that risk may be offset by the potential for more users, and more of their data, according to a recent Morningstar report featuring Alphabet’s new hardware.
Increasing financial transparency does have its benefits, however. At least for Porat, splitting up the revenue scorecards of Google and Other Bets enables her to harness investors’ ire and pressure moonshots to rein in expenditures.
“Now with Alphabet it is difficult to hide a billion-dollar investment in VR,” said Einbender Capital portfolio manager James Gryta. “Ruth knows this, and I think she relishes that the moonshots are now more accountable to investors.”