Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Google revenue falls short as competition on mobile intensifies

Google Inc.'s fourth-quarter sales and profit missed Wall Street estimates as the Internet company's advertising business faced more competition on mobile devices.

Revenue rose 6.9% to $14.5 billion, the company said Thursday, missing analysts' average projection for $14.7 billion, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Larry Page is battling Facebook Inc. and other Web companies that are seeking to lure away users and advertisers on tablets and smartphones. Marketers are also paying less for mobile ads, driving fees lower within Google's online-ad business. As a result, the average price of ads fell 3% in the quarter, following a decline of 2% in the previous period.

"People wanted to see that improve," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners in New York.

The shares of Mountain View, Calif.-based Google were little changed in extended trading after the release of earnings. The stock advanced less than 1% to $513.23 at the close.

Fourth-quarter net income rose...

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Alibaba invests $10 million in Santa Monica game console maker Ouya

Chinese internet giant Alibaba has invested $10 million in Santa Monica video game console maker Ouya, sources close to Ouya said.

The injection of cash could help boost Ouya’s presence in Asia as it expands its platform business into markets such as China and India.

Ouya founder and Chief Executive Julie Uhrman said the company does not comment on its investments, and Alibaba did not respond to requests for comment, but sources close to the matter said the two companies are in talks to incorporate Ouya’s software and library of more than 1,000 games into Alibaba’s set-top box.

The partnership could be a boon for Ouya, which has struggled to gain footing in the U.S. since its 2013 launch. Its console, originally funded on Kickstarter, was poised to disrupt the domestic console market with its low price point ($99 compared with $300-plus for the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One), its lightweight and sleek design and its Android-powered operating system, which made it easy for developers to...

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FCC votes to define broadband as 25 megabits per second or higher

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to change the definition of broadband Internet to connection speeds of 25 megabits per second or higher, up from the previous standard of 4 megabits.

FCC commissioners voted on the definition as part of the agency's 2015 Broadband Progress Report. If speeds do not reach the new threshold, a connection cannot be listed as "broadband."

The new definition of broadband does not require Internet service providers to make any changes to the services they provide.

Last week, a lawyer for the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. wrote a letter to the FCC urging the agency not to change the definition of broadband, calling it a "substantial departure" from the initial standard.  

Still, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called Thursday's vote a "forward-looking speed" to ensure that "America continues to lead the world and meet the needs of its consumers because as a nation we should always aspire to deliver the very best."

"We must...

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Tripda, app to find long-distance rides, nabs $11 million in capital

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have persuaded millions of Americans to trust people not licensed as taxi drivers to give them quick rides, but no company in the U.S. has been able to get the masses to take long-distance trips with unregulated drivers.

Tripda, a service trying to change that, announced Thursday that it has raised $11 million in venture capital. The announcement comes two days after Zimride, a competitor founded by the team who later started Lyft, announced that it would stop serving the general public to instead focus on college students and corporate users.

Tripda, founded last year, launched in the U.S. in November. Using its app and websites, drivers post that they’ll be making a long trip soon. Potential riders can then search and sort through the listings. The app is free to use for now.

Tripda doesn’t do background checks on drivers or their vehicles. It relies on peer reviews, payment verification and syncing with Facebook profiles to provide a sense of security to both...

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Sony to end Music Unlimited service, teams up with Spotify

Sony will shut down its Music Unlimited digital subscription service and debut a Spotify-powered music service to its 64 million PlayStation Network users, the company announced Wednesday.

Spotify and Sony are partnering to bring the new streaming service, dubbed PlayStation Music, to PlayStation gaming consoles and Sony’s Xperia line of mobile devices this spring. The company plans to roll out to 41 markets initially, including the United States, Britain and Hong Kong, it said.

In a Wednesday statement, Sony Network Entertainment said the $10-a-month Music Unlimited service, launched four years ago, would close in all 19 countries at the end of March.

Listeners with active subscriptions at the beginning of March will be allowed to listen free of charge through the end of the month, the company said. They will also be offered a trial subscription to Spotify Premium.

Service in Japan, where Spotify has yet to launch, has not been determined, Sony said.

“Music is the core component of...

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Facebook bet on mobile ads pays off as earnings jump

Facebook’s bet on mobile advertising seems to be paying off handsomely. The social network reported profit of $701 million in the three months ended Dec. 31, up $178 million a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter was up 48% to $3.85 billion. Most of the revenue came from Facebook’s advertising business, which hit $3.59 billion, an increase of 53% year-over-year. Mobile advertising revenue was 69% of total ad revenue, also up from 53% last year. What the industry calls “engagement” also saw big gains. The social network’s monthly active users totaled 1.39 billion as of Dec. 31, up 13%, while mobile monthly active users were 1.19 billion, up 26%. Facebook-owned apps also reported growth in monthly active users, particularly photo sharing service Instagram (300 million), and mobile messaging services Messenger (500 million) and WhatsApp (700 million). “We got a lot done in 2014,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “Our community continues to grow and we're making progress...

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