Google discloses cloud results for the first time as it looks beyond search – CNET

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Google announced fourth-quarter earnings.


Angela Lang/CNET

Google on Tuesday revealed new financial details about its cloud division, a milestone as the tech giant aims to expand its business beyond the company’s massive search and advertising operation. 

The tech giant’s cloud unit, which rents server space and artificial intelligence technology to other companies and organizations, showed smart growth in the fourth quarter though it remained unprofitable. Revenue rose to $3.83 billion from $2.61 billion a year earlier. The unit posted an operating loss of $1.24 billion in the period. 

More broadly, Google’s business has thrived. For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Alphabet company tallied $56.89 billion in sales, crushing analyst estimates of $53.12 billion. Earnings per share were $22.30, beating expectations of $15.90 per share, according to Refinitiv.

Alphabet’s shares rose more than 6 percent in after hours trading.

“Our strong results this quarter reflect the helpfulness of our products and services to people and businesses, as well as the accelerating transition to online services and the cloud,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement.

The disclosure of new details related to Google Cloud comes as the company’s search and targeted advertising business is under increasing attack by lawmakers, as well as state and federal prosecutors. Google currently faces three major antitrust lawsuits, including a landmark case by the US Department of Justice and another complaint by a bipartisan coalition of states.

Google revamped its cloud division in 2016, as the company sought to catch up to Amazon Web Services, the e-commerce giant’s multibillion dollar cloud outfit. Since then, Google has made the business a top priority. The shift has been accelerated by the global pandemic, which has made many big companies more reliant on providing digital offerings.

The maturing of Google’s cloud business, however, has come with challenges. The company’s rank-and-file employees, among the most outspoken workforces in the tech industry, has protested Google Cloud’s contracts with the US government. In 2018, employees petitioned against the company’s involvement in Project Maven, a Defense Department initiative aimed at developing better AI for the military. 

Last year, employees pushed back against the company after it was reported that Google licensed its cloud software to Customs and Border Protection. At the time, a Google executive reportedly defended the deal by saying the company’s technology wasn’t being used for immigration enforcement at the southern border.

Despite its growth, Google still has a lot of work to do to catch up to competitors. In October, Amazon owned 32% of the market, followed by Microsoft’s Azure service at 17%, according to estimates by the research firm Canalys. Google Cloud was third at 7%.

This is a developing story…