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Is Google Becoming a Bond Villain?

Stocks in this article: AMZN GOOG

And if that's true, what is Googleism? That's something CEO Larry Page needs to define, something he needs to get in front of quickly, or the sympathy he's gained over the Alper incident could quickly turn against the company.

The widespread belief that Google has become evil, complaining about the National Security Agency doing things for national security Google itself does for profit, is a sea change in our view of the company, that will last long after the protest is forgotten.

Google, along with the other huge San Francisco tech companies that have sprung up in its wake, now has enormous power. With enormous power comes enormous responsibility. Cottage industries spring up to take down the newly powerful (in this case, Google), and the default assumption about them can turn on a dime.

Google has tried to be aware of this possibility. It has beefed up its presence in Washington, hiring a former Republican congresswoman to head its policy shop. It has been transparent in its political contributions following a formal code of conduct which turns the "Don't be evil" mantra into specific, detailed policy.

But as the cover of Google critic Scott Cleland's book Search and Destroy illustrates, what looks on the outside like a cute bunny can easily look like a T. Rex to others, both competitors and potential customers.

Over the last few years Google shares have taken off for the stratosphere, increasing in price by more than 57% in just the last year, despite slowing growth, expanding the price-to-earnings ratio from about 20 to more than 30.

That's more than twice the current P/E paid for Apple  (AAPL), or Microsoft  (MSFT) or even mighty IBM  (IBM). Sustaining such a valuation requires not just doing everything right, but appearing to do everything right.

If Google loses its glow, if it's being seen by consumers as a T. Rex rather than a cute bunny rabbit, if it's truly viewed as a Bond villain, the stock has a long way to fall.

At the time of publication the author owned shares in GOOG, AAPL and IBM.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.


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