Search Biz: Yahoo Earnings, Google Lobbying, Tech Stimulus, Best Places To Work & Making PCs ‘History’

Just like the US economy, things at Yahoo may get worse before they get better; the company reports earnings today at 5 p.m. Eastern. The general expectation is they’ll be down.

Yahoo may have been hit hard by the weakness in online display advertising. And new CEO Carol Bartz will be on the hot seat as financial analysts probe about a potential deal with Microsoft and whether the company will layoff more employees.

Bartz is trying to impose some discipline and get tough on press leakers, which have feed Kara Swisher at AllThingsD so faithfully and regularly. Swisher reports on Bartz’s address to Yahoo in which she threatens to fire those leaking internal memos:

At her first all-hands meeting, Bartz said, according to one report others have since confirmed to BoomTown, that she would “drop-kick to f***ing Mars” employees who leak to the press.

That threat sent little shivers up BoomTown’s spine too, which is why it must have taken so long for her first-week missive to Yahoo (YHOO) staff worldwide to get to my inbox.

Last week, Yahoo rival Google reported strong earnings (especially under the circumstances). And Search Biz, as usual, has a bunch of Google-related items.

The LA Times offers a lengthy article on how Google is set to ramp up lobbying and other political efforts to push its agenda through the labyrinth of Washington policy makers. It sees the new administration and a Democratic Congress as potential allies. Previously Wired reported on how the search engine was outmaneuvered by Microsoft, which was able to indirectly exercise influence and thwart the Google-Yahoo paid search deal by promoting the specter of a Google search monopoly.

As an interesting side note, the Times offers data in the article on Google’s political contributions to the candidates:

The company’s political action committee gave 57% of its $264,000 in contributions during the 2008 campaign cycle to Democrats, and 43% to Republicans. Google also had a presence at both parties’ national conventions last summer.

But Google’s employees left little doubt whom they supported. They contributed $782,964 to Obama’s campaign and $20,800 to John McCain’s, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Googlers also donated $166,000 for Obama’s inauguration.

Google will likely benefit directly and indirectly from the proposal to target some of the Obama/Congressional economic stimulus package at technology initiatives. The NY Times reports:

The $825 billion stimulus plan presented this month by House Democrats called for $37 billion in spending in three high-tech areas: $20 billion to computerize medical records, $11 billion to create smarter electrical grids and $6 billion to expand high-speed Internet access in rural and underserved communities.

Google Health would be a direct beneficiary of the first effort, while it’s “smart grid” initiative would also be implicated. And any expansion of Internet access in rural areas would pay indirect dividends to Google by enabling more internet users.

In a somewhat related piece, TechCrunch discusses how the Obama administration will use technology in new and more extensive ways that predecessors.

Google Watch blogger Clint Boulton argues (citing a NY Review of Books article) that Google’s Book Search settlement and publisher agreement has potential anti-trust implications:

Google has monopoly potential for Book Search just as it has a potential monopoly. Potential does not equal actuality though I always argue that Google already has a search monopoly because of its size and lack of serious challengers (sorry Yahoo, Microsoft).

Next, AP reports on the generally negative reactions on Wall Street to Google’s earnings related announcement that it would allow employees to swap their current, largely “underwater” stock options for those at current market value. That would allow those employees to reap the benefits of any gains in Google’s stock going forward.

Did Google even need to be so magnanimous at a time when many people are simply happy to have a job?

“While we agree with management that it is in shareholders’ interests to keep Google employees motivated and retain the company’s focus on growth, we question the necessity of the (repricing) program given the current employment environment,” ThinkEquity analyst William Morrison wrote in a research report.

The move has raised concern among some analysts that other companies will feel the need to similarly reprice options. But employees, whose options would otherwise be worthless, must have cheered the move.

Speaking of employees cheering, Google has fallen from the best place to work to number four, according to Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work 2009 (via ResourceShelf). For those wondering, Build-a-Bear Workshop comes in at number 94. Microsoft for its part is number 38.

Last week Redmond announced that it would lay off 5,000 employees over the next year or so. Two who will be leaving the company in the very near term are Microsoft subsidiary Fast Search & Transfer’s CEO John Lervik and Chris Early, general manager of Games for Windows Live. VentureBeat speculates on the future of the Windows Live gaming group as a result of Early’s imminent departure.

The final item is another sensational (as in exaggerated) story in the Guardian about how Google plans to make “PCs history,” a reference to Google’s rumored “GDrive” initiative:

The Google Drive, or “GDrive”, could kill off the desktop computer, which relies on a powerful hard drive. Instead a user’s personal files and operating system could be stored on Google’s own servers and accessed via the internet.

That’s not exactly correct, but “could computing” and online storage will help support sales of low-cost and increasingly popular “netbooks” and other mobile Internet devices that don’t need lots of memory or software running on them to be functional. Microsoft claimed that netbook sales hurt revenues last quarter.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Search Biz


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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