Google owner Alphabet becomes trillion-dollar company

Google’s parent company Alphabet has achieved a $1 trillion valuation, making it the fourth US firm ever to surpass the milestone after Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.

Alphabet reached the figure just before the close of trading on Thursday, when its share price soared to $1,450.16 (£1,113.09), with analysts forecasting that it could go higher still.

The company’s shares jumped 30 per cent last year and 17 per cent in the last three months alone.

Google’s strong gains have come as it has consolidated its dominance of the online advertising market and expanded its cloud computing business, muscling into territory that Amazon considers its own.

Amazon fell out of the $1 trillion club shortly after joining when its streak of record profits came to an end in July.

Google is also strong in artificial intelligence and machine learning, two areas predicted to grow rapidly over the coming decades.

“It still has significant further room to grow, both in its core online-advertising business as it innovates in advertising monetisation and formats and in its cloud computing business,” said Christopher Rossbach, of private investment firm J Stern & Co.

“Alphabet is laying the foundations for a much larger company as it is the unequivocal leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

“It is also disrupting new multi-trillion dollar markets, for example healthcare, with this technology. Its sizeable investments give Alphabet a sustainable competitive advantage as it applies this technology across its business.”

Some market watchers have even forecast that Alphabet will hit $2 trillion, a landmark that only Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco has so far achieved.

However, there are concerns about Alphabet’s opaque accounts. Google makes the vast majority of the group’s revenues, with the rest of its businesses accounted for together under a category Alphabet calls “other bets”.

This includes potentially valuable businesses such as autonomous driving startup Waymo, but little information is published about how these companies are faring financially.

Google and other technology giants also face the prospect of stricter regulations on privacy, competition, taxation, and extremist content.

Alphabet remains some way behind Apple’s $1.4 trillion valuation and Microsoft on $1.27 trillion.

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This Is Amazon’s New Hexagonal Drone

Amazon has revealed a new drone design for its Prime Air delivery program. The shopping behemoth used its re:MARS Conference (Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space) in Las Vegas to debut the hexagonal drone, which it says in a press statement can “fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.”

The company calls the drone a “hybrid design,” capable of both vertical takeoffs and landings, “like a helicopter.” Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer division, says he hopes to be using the drones “within months.”

Amazon began drone deliveries in England in 2016. Although it has not announced where these drones will be flying, it’s safe to assume they won’t take to the skies in America, where regulations are still onerous. Since 2012, Amazon says it has deployed 200,000 robotic drive units in its operations.

The drone appears to be built for customers with ample backyards. Amazon says it needs “a small area around the delivery location that is clear of people, animals, or obstacles,” which likely eliminates many crowded urban areas. But backyards present their own challenges, which the company says it has dealt with. “A customer’s yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires, or electrical wires. Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights,” says the company’s press statement. “Through the use of computer-vision techniques we’ve invented, our drones can recognize and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer’s yard.”

Wherever the drones are used, they will reduce deliveries. And Amazon is quick to note the green implications of the drones: They will “help achieve Shipment Zero, the company’s vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030.” However, the company doesn’t mention if the drones will affect any of its legions of drivers.

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