THE GOOGLE INVESTOR: Say What You Will About Google’s Changes, Preliminary Search Results Point To Solid Quarter

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GOOG Up With The Markets
The market is up on a strong Fed Manufacturing report and despite Citi Group’s big earnings miss. Shares of GOOG are up with the rest of technology. Catalysts include fourth quarter 2011 financial results released on Thursday, January 19th at 4:30 p.m. ET; continued Android momentum in the smartphone and tablet markets worldwide; Motorola acquisition approval and integration; regaining ground in China; resurgence of Google TV; the roll-out of Google Music, social network Google+ and Google Wallet; and progress in other newer initiatives (location-based services, mapping, gaming, daily deals, etc.). The stock trades at approximately 12.8x Enterprise Value / EBIT.

The Tech World Is Outraged At Google’s Search Changes (Business Insider)
This week, Google started putting stuff from Google+ into search results, embarking on a major plan to improve search relevance and shift its revenue mix to the much more profitable first-party ads. If Google can get away with this, it’s an amazing coup. But in tech, you don’t lose because you make competitors angry. You lose when you make your customers angry. And customers are angry. Google has made mistakes in the past. But its core business has never been threatened. Has anyone who isn’t a tech pundit even noticed that Google has changed anything?

FTC Expanding Antitrust Probe To Include Google+ (Bloomberg)
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is expanding its antitrust probe of Google to include scrutiny of its new Google+ social networking service, according sources. The competition issues raised by Google+ go to the heart of the FTC’s investigation into whether the company is giving preference to its own services in search results and whether that practice violates antitrust laws. There goes the amazing coup.

Interactive TV Advertising Is Not Huge Now, But Will 2012 Be The Year It Takes Off (paidContent)
Looking at investment in digital video advertising (only part of digital ads), only 8% of advertisers invested in connected TV video ads in 2011. That’s modest and smaller than other mediums like mobile, where 42% and 41% of advertisers said they would spend on iPhone and iPad platforms, respectively, and 31% for Android devices. And that 8% was flat year-over-year, meaning interest has stalled. This year will be telling, however, with Google TV and Apple TV getting ready to duke it out over TV.

Search Advertising Getting More Efficient, Points To Successful Fourth Quarter
(Search Engine Land)

Good news for Google, four reports released this month by paid search giants Efficient Frontier, IgnitionOne, Marin Software and Covario all point to an overwhelmingly successful fourth quarter in 2011 for major search advertisers in a number of verticals. Across the board, overall search spending has increased, as advertisers on the whole enjoyed an increase in impressions and click-through rates, while achieving a lower average cost per click. And marketers will spend likely between 15% and 20% more this year in the U.S. Similar growth is expected internationally; however, macroeconomic conditions in Europe will be a wild card.

Google / Motorola Score Win In Apple Patent Battle (Various via Scoople)
Motorola did not violate Apple’s patented technology according a preliminary decision from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). A full decision is expected in March. Apple filed a complaint with the ITC in October of 2010, accusing Motorola of infringing three Apple patents (how devices accept manual input and adding applications). It is part of a larger fight between Apple and Google. And now that Google is buying Motorola, it’s Google’s problem.

Polaroid Goes Android, What’s Next? (The Street)
Polaroid’s latest SC1630 point-and-shoot camera is build on Android. It has double the megapixels of any smartphone (16 megapixels) and an optical zoom which is 3x larger than what’s out there. The point being, will we be seeing more non-smartphone or tablet related gadgets built on Android and supporting the nearly half a billion apps in the Android Marketplace? Sounds like it.

Google Ads Former VMWare Executive, Microsoft Competitor, To Board (Business Insider)
Google has just added a 10th board member: Diane B. Greene, a co-founder and former CEO of VMWare, a leading enterprise computing player. It’s interesting that of all the areas Google is in they picked a board member from the enterprise computing world. Particularly, from a company that Microsoft views as one of its top competitors. This could mean that Google will pay more attention to its Google Apps enterprise business.