Google Earnings Bode Ill for Company's Future

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In technology, the war of all against all has become the war of all against one, and the one is Google (GOOG).

Google missed Wall Street estimates for both earnings and revenue in its first-quarter report, sending the stock tumbling. The question for investors is whether this is a blip or a trend.

The answer: It's probably a trend, because it turns out that Google's "Don't Be Evil" has a corollary. Get big enough, and you're evil by default. The picture of co-founder Sergey Brin wearing his Google Glasses has taken on the air of Boardwatch magazine's 1996 cover of Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Bill Gates as a Borg from Star Trek. 

On Google's conference call Wedneday, executives blamed mobile for the miss. Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora said advertisers have yet to take full advantage of the mobile platform, that their "journey is just beginning."

But Google has also been investing heavily in technologies without a clear path to earnings, including drones, robots, the Nest thermostat and Brin's Google Glasses.

All these have combined into fears Google is creating a "digital superstate" that is threatening to people, nations and industries.

The fear was expressed openly recently by Mathias Doepfner, CEO of German publisher Axel Springer, who wrote of publishers' "total dependence on Google" in Frankfurter Allgemeine

As Google goes into areas that seem like science fiction, the pushback grows on its base operations. What might have seemed before like minor tweaks to its terms of service result in global hysteria in which it's compared to the National Security Agency.

This means that whole industries cheer when Google faces competition from any quarter.

Is Amazon (AMZN) beating Google in the cloud? Is Yahoo! (YHOO) plotting to take Apple (AAPL) phones off Google search? Hooray for the little guy, as though Amazon and Apple were little guys.

It is premature to predict any "fall of Google" as its latest quarter showed revenues up 19% year over year. That sounds great. But operating margins were lower than they were a year ago, as was free cash flow.

Blame Nest, said management. Blame Deepmind. Blame Impermium, Bitspin, GreenThrottle, and Spider.IO. Google spent more than $4 billion in acquisitions during the last quarter, and the pace won't slacken, as the company has already acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace this month for an undisclosed price to go alongside robotics maker Boston Dynamics, acquired last December.

All this speaks to what might be called the Windows problem. Google has a near-monopoly in its niche of paid search, much like Microsoft's monopoly in Windows over a decade ago, and it is investing heavily to diversify beyond it, just as Microsoft did.

The question for investors is whether Google will suffer Microsoft's fate. Ultimately the signs point to yes. When that happens is not yet clear. Google Glass can do many things, but it can't foretell the future.

At the time of publication the author owned shares of GOOG, AMZN, and AAPL

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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