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   Technology StocksAlphabet Inc. (Google)

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From: Glenn Petersen8/23/2021 9:33:25 AM
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YouTube says its Partner Program now has 2 million members

The program to pay its creators launched 14 years ago

By Kim Lyons
The Verge
Aug 23, 2021, 9:00am EDT

YouTube’s Partner Program, which allows users to make money off their videos, has passed the 2 million creator mark, the company said Monday. The platform has helped turn YouTube into a viable business for top creators like PewDiePie and Jenna Marbles, but it’s also been the cause of consternation for the company when eligible partners — often those same top creators — do something that reflects poorly on the platform and temporarily drives away advertisers.

Creators who qualify for the Partner Program — you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of overall watch time on your channel in the past 12 months — can earn money through ads, subscription fees, donations, livestreaming, and YouTube Premium revenue.

The Google-owned company has struggled at times to find the balance between having a lot of creators who rake in ad revenue and keeping advertisers happy. This has included deciding when to remove ads from channels that engage in harassment or other problematic content; while YouTube takes a cut of eligible creators’ ad revenue, if advertisers are wary of a channel’s content, they’ll pull their ads.

YouTube updated its harassment policy in 2019 in response to some creator-on-creator harassment, which was a significant corner of the site for years, and has punished creators who cross legal or ethical lines by demonetizing their channels. In the past year, that’s included demonetizing videos that mention the coronavirus, considered a sensitive topic.

Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube, said in a blog post that the number of new channels joining the program in 2020 more than doubled when compared to 2019, and the number of YouTube channels making six figures or more in revenue is up 35 percent year over year (but he didn’t provide the specific number of creators who make that much money).

“Finding new ways to reward trusted creators financially and help them ramp up their businesses will always be a top priority for us,” Mohan said.

YouTube says its Partner Program now has 2 million members - The Verge

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From: Frank Sully8/23/2021 11:06:00 AM
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Google is doubling down on a powerful new AI tool for SearchBut the technology has drawn criticism from the AI community

AUGUST 23, 2021


Francis Scialabba

Google wants your search queries to look less like a Jeopardy! answer and more like a chat with your friend—filled with the kind of slang and shorthand only a human would understand.

To get there, the tech giant is enlisting a powerful AI tool you all might remember: a large language model, specifically one called MUM (multitask unified model).
  • Large language models, which are trained on datasets as large as one trillion words, help computers process and produce human-like language.

But, but, but: The tech has drawn criticism from parts of the AI community. In the past year, Google fired both co-leads of its AI ethics team after a dispute over their research on the dangers of large language models.
  • One of experts’ top concerns? Models trained via internet data will naturally learn biases—then can easily replicate those patterns and multiply the resulting harms.
Case study

Google hasn’t yet announced a timeline for when it’ll incorporate MUM into live search, but it’s already experimenting with one-off projects.

Then vs. now: In 2020, Google team members spent hundreds of hours compiling the different ways people could refer to Covid in order to accurately route pandemic queries. This year, they wanted to do the same thing for queries about the Covid vaccine—so they used MUM to “generate over 800 names for 17 different vaccines in 50 different languages” within seconds, Pandu Nayak, Google’s VP of search, told Popular Science.

Big picture: Google announced MUM at its developer conference in May alongside other language model initiatives, and now it seems to be doubling down on how important the tech is to its future business model. More sophisticated searches and answers will likely lead to more valuable targeted ads, which could mean big changes for the ad pricing model, reports the FT.

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From: Frank Sully8/24/2021 10:13:04 PM
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Waymo opens its self-driving taxis to ‘Trusted Testers’ in San Francisco

Alphabet’s fully autonomous driving unit Waymo is ready to offer rides to select passengers in San Francisco, the company announced on Tuesday. Starting later today, residents can sign up to become “Trusted Testers.” With an invite to the program, you can use the Waymo One app to take rides in the fleet of Jaguar I-Pace vehicles Waymo will have stationed in the city.

Waymo describes the Trusted Tester program as a “research-focused” effort designed to help it collect feedback on its ride experience, with an emphasis on gathering information related to accessibility.

“We kicked off this program last week with a select few and are now expanding the program to all interested San Franciscans,” the company said. “We’ll begin with an initial group and welcome more riders in the weeks to come.” Much like it did in Arizona, Waymo won’t let the cars drive without supervision right off the back. The company will have employees in the cars to ensure its fifth-generation Waymo Driver technology doesn’t get lost on San Francisco’s tricky one-way streets and hills. The company also told Bloomberg passengers will ride for free.

The expansion comes after Waymo recently announced CEO John Krafcik was leaving the company to pursue other projects. Some saw Krafcik as being too slow to push the company toward commercialization.

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From: Glenn Petersen8/26/2021 6:03:13 PM
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‘YouTube magic dust’: How America’s second-largest social platform ducks controversies

While Facebook and Twitter take the brunt of backlashes over misinformation and ‘censorship,’ the Google-owned video giant has often laid low. That may finally be changing.

By Will Oremus
Technology news analysis writer
The Washington Post
Yesterday at 6:35 p.m. EDT

The morning after Afghanistan’s capital fell to the Taliban last week, Facebook said it would continue to ban the group, while Twitter said it would “remain vigilant” as it prioritized safety.

Hours later that day — after the other social media companies made headlines — YouTube said it would also continue to ban Taliban accounts.

It’s not the first time YouTube lagged behind its rivals. Earlier this year, it was the last to suspend President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and it has said the least about potential reinstatement. Three years ago, its parent company Google declined to send an executive to a Senate grilling on foreign election interference, leaving Facebook and Twitter’s leaders to face the music. And in 2017, it was the last of the major social media outlets to disclose evidence of Russian interference on its platform.

“Overall, it seems like Google’s strategy has been to keep their heads down and let Twitter and Facebook take the heat, and so far the media and political classes have rewarded that strategy,” said Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and Facebook’s former chief security officer.

In an era when tech giants control the largest global information networks, their decisions about who can speak and what they can say have massive geopolitical implications. It’s a responsibility that each of the major U.S.-based public social media platforms has come to understand and take seriously, to varying degrees. But for a constellation of reasons, YouTube’s content policies have tended to attract less media attention and scrutiny than those of Facebook or Twitter, experts say — even though nearly a quarter of U.S. adults say they get news from YouTube, according to the Pew Research Center. (Facebook serves as a news source for 36 percent of Americans, the highest share of any social platform, while Twitter is third at 15 percent.)

With more than 2 billion users worldwide, YouTube is the Internet’s dominant hub for user-created videos of all kinds — including those sharing political rants, coronavirus vaccine conspiracy theories and, in rare cases, live streams of terrorist threats or mass shootings. Researchers have identified the network as playing a major role in misinformation campaigns, including the effort to discredit the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and its recommendation algorithms have been implicated in leading some users down a path of radicalization. Yet it has repeatedly ducked the brunt of backlashes that Facebook and Twitter have absorbed head-on.

To what extent that’s the result of a cunning public-relations strategy, a blinkered press corps or genuine differences in the companies’ products and policies depends on whom you ask. But all seem to be at work to some degree.

“I call it ‘YouTube magic dust,’ ” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who researches the regulation of online speech. “It’s just the only explanation for how they keep managing to stay off in the shadows while the other platforms take the heat.”

A former employee who worked on content policy issues at YouTube, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a nondisparagement agreement, offered a more quotidian theory.

“I think that part of it is a deliberate strategy,” the former employee said. “And another part of it is just the fact that statements and blog posts and big decisions can take forever to get through Google. Other companies are more nimble.”

YouTube, for its part, suggested that the pattern was less clear-cut than it might seem. It didn’t deny that there have been times when YouTube was less communicative, less transparent or slower than some rivals to respond to content controversies. But it offered defenses for each example critics raised, and pointed to other instances in which YouTube was quicker, more consistent or more decisive than Facebook and Twitter.

“Through the years, we’ve established and announced many policies to remove content violating our Community Guidelines,” YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said in a statement. “At times, this work has allowed us to be the first to quickly enforce our policies, including removing covid-19 anti-vaccination content or presidential election misinformation.” Shadloo also said the platform has been working to engage more with the public, citing as evidence a 2020 interview that YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki granted to the New York Times and a series of 2019 corporate blog posts on “ The Four R’s of Responsibility.”

YouTube published a blog post on Wednesday, following requests for comment by The Washington Post, outlining its philosophy on misinformation. In it, chief product officer Neal Mohan argued that what YouTube’s algorithms amplify is more important than what its moderators leave up or take down.

“The most important thing we can do is increase the good and decrease the bad,” Mohan wrote. “That’s why at YouTube we’re ratcheting up information from trusted sources and reducing the spread of videos with harmful misinformation.”

That follows Wojcicki publishing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on content policy and Mohan giving an interview to the tech blog the Verge, both earlier this month. Those moves suggest YouTube may be opening up a bit at last.

Still, researchers say that YouTube remains one of the hardest social media platforms to study, because video is so difficult to analyze in bulk and the platform doesn’t provide many tools to do so.

No YouTube executive has ever testified before Congress, something Twitter and Facebook’s leaders have done multiple times. YouTube will tell you it’s because its executives have not been explicitly invited; Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Google’s then-general counsel Kent Walker have each testified, while in 2018 the company was represented by an empty chair after declining to send Larry Page, the chief of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

YouTube was the only one of the three major platforms that declined to create new policies in anticipation of efforts to discredit or overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Mohan told the New York Times that its usual processes would be sufficient. As a result, YouTube went unmentioned in some stories about the role social media would play. Mohan’s claim was quickly disproved, as YouTube became a major source of lies and conspiracy theories about the vote, The Post reported. For example, a clip from One America News falsely claimed that Democrats had stolen a “decisive victory” from Trump by “tossing Republican ballots.”

Those continued to flourish in the election’s wake, according to the New York Times, because YouTube’s rules prohibited videos misleading people about the voting process, but not those spreading false stories about the outcome.

YouTube was also the last of the three major platforms to suspend Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Facebook indefinitely suspended him on Jan. 7, sparking a firestorm. On Jan. 8, Twitter issued a permanent ban, setting off its own major news cycle. YouTube issued its indefinite suspension the next week, as the furor over the first two was dying down. The platform said it was simply sticking to its long-standing “three strikes” policy for suspending creators who violate its rules, whereas Facebook and Twitter were making their Trump calls ad hoc.

In the time since, however, YouTube has stood out for the opacity of its process for reinstating Trump. Facebook has deputized a high-profile, quasi-legal Oversight Board to publicly review and critique its Trump ruling. Twitter has stuck with its permanent ban. YouTube has been largely silent, save for Wojcicki saying in March that YouTube would reinstate Trump’s channel once it deems the “ elevated risk of violence” to have subsided. YouTube has declined to specify just how it will assess that, though Shadloo said it’s monitoring a range of factors, such as violent rhetoric across platforms, government security alerts and elevated law enforcement presence.

YouTube’s reticence on sensitive political issues dates to at least the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In October 2017, Facebook was the first of the platforms to discover and disclose evidence of Russian interference on its platform. While Facebook was being pilloried as a destroyer of democracy, Google told reporters it had found no evidence of Russian ads on its site. A month later, as Google faced pressure from Congress, The Post reported that it had in fact found Russian-bought ads.

Douek said that while she can only speculate as to YouTube’s motives, she suspects that its penchant for avoiding headlines is at least partly intentional.

“An advantage of that approach is that Facebook and Twitter lead the cycle,” whereas YouTube “has the benefit of seeing the public reaction to the story and seeing how some of the discourse works” before making its own call.

But Douek added some of that is because of predetermined bias on the part of both the media and Congress, perhaps in part because journalists and public officials use Facebook and Twitter more than YouTube themselves.

“YouTube is playing into a dynamic that already exists,” she added.

The former employee who worked on YouTube policy said that the tactic of waiting for another company to go first, at least in some cases, was purposeful.

“What you see is one company will take the lead, and then everyone drafts off of that statement to avoid getting their own news cycle,” the person said. “The reason this persists is because it is a very effective PR strategy.”

YouTube’s Shadloo disputed the notion that it strategically avoids controversies. He said the platform is “always open to feedback” and continues to “explore ways to expand transparency and engage with the wider public and community in meaningful ways.” Shadloo noted that YouTube has been a leader among social platforms in promoting authoritative content and reducing the audience of “borderline” content, among other moderation practices.

YouTube was the first platform to remove a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2019, at a time when Facebook’s policy confused many and Twitter declined to comment. And in 2020, it made what in retrospect appears to have been a wise call to allow content about a controversial New York Post story related to Hunter Biden, while Twitter initially banned it before reversing its decision.

The same dynamics that have helped YouTube keep a low profile could also benefit TikTok as it becomes a more influential source of news, political views and information, experts said. Like YouTube, its audience skews young, its format poses challenges for researchers, and it remains thought of largely as an entertainment platform even as influencers use it to discuss issues ranging from climate change to coronavirus vaccines.

Stamos said he hopes YouTube’s recent progress is a sign of more to come.

Otherwise, he added, “It sets an unfortunate precedent for the emerging problematic platforms, like TikTok. Why would they offer the same transparency as Twitter when they can get away with Google’s example?”

How YouTube ducks content moderation controversies - The Washington Post

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From: Frank Sully8/26/2021 11:59:08 PM
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Waymo Expands Self-Driving Operations. What It Means for Tesla.

By Al Root

Aug. 25, 2021 11:21 am ET

Waymo is testing the autonomous ride-hailing service it operates in Phoenix in San Francisco.Courtesy Waymo

Truly self-driving cars are on American roads. And they don’t come from Tesla. Consumers—and investors—just need to know where to look.

Waymo, Alphabet’s (ticker: GOOG) venture into self-driving cars, said Tuesday it has begun testing its autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco. Waymo already operates a robotaxi business around Phoenix. The Arizona taxis have operated without people at the wheel since October 2020, so they qualify as true self-driving vehicles.

The San Francisco Waymo program, at this point, is a test, with autonomous-driving specialists in the cars. Riders are preselected— people can sign up here— and give the company feedback about the experience of being driven around the city’s winding roads.

Travelers can also get into a self-driving taxi in Las Vegas. That network is operated by Motional–a joint venture between the auto-parts maker Aptiv(ticker: APTV) and Hyundai Motor (005380. Korea).

It has taken the auto industry a while, but fully self-driving vehicles are starting to pop up across the country.

There is still a big difference between the self-driving ride-hailing franchises operated by Waymo and Motional and autonomous-driving systems available to new-car buyers. The ride-hailing vehicles have sensors and software that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting it out of reach of regular consumers. These vehicles have to generate revenue to justify the cost.

The autonomous-driving features available for purchase on passenger cars can do some of what a Waymo self-driving taxi can, but those systems require drivers to pay attention to the road 100% of the time.

Tesla (TSLA) is more vocal than most other auto makers about its self-driving features. The company hosted an investor event this past week to show off he progress it has made.

The race to develop better, cheaper systems for passenger cars is important for Tesla and its competitors. Better systems will mean safer, more convenient vehicles. That will allow Tesla, or whoever develops the leading systems, to sell more cars.

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From: Frank Sully8/29/2021 3:29:54 PM
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Speech and Voice Recognition Market Is Expected to Grow at a CAGR of 21.6% During 2021-2026

Northbrook, IL -- ( SBWIRE) -- 08/27/2021 -- According to the new market research report "Speech and Voice Recognition Market with COVID-19 Impact Analysis by Delivery Method, Deployment Mode (On Cloud, On-Premises/Embedded), Technology (Speech Recognition, Voice Recognition), Vertical and Geography – Global Forecast to 2026", published by MarketsandMarkets™, the Speech And Voice Recognition Market is expected to grow from USD 8.3 billion in 2021 to USD 22.0 billion by 2026; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.6% during the forecast period. The major driving factors for the growth of the speech and voice recognition market include increase in use of smart appliance and use of artificial intelligence technology to boost accuracy of speech and voice recognition system. The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a decline in the growth rate of the speech and voice recognition market, especially in 2020 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the speech and voice recognition market both positively and negatively. The demand for smart appliances and devices has increased with most of the population working from home. This has also created an opportunity for the speech and voice recognition market as this technology is being used in various smart devices. However, many people are also focusing on basic amenities during the pandemic, putting off other purchases for the time being. The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in halted production, thus affecting the manufacturing capabilities of all regions; the supply of products from manufacturers to end users has declined drastically as a result.

Speech Recognition technology shows significant increase in speech and voice recognition market during the forecast period.

Growing demand for speech-enabled consumer electronics devices including smart home devices, mobile devices, and wearable devices is expected to result in rapid growth of the speech recognition market during the forecast period. The automatic speech recognition (ASR) segment is expected to record the highest CAGR in the forecast period. The growing accuracy of ASR technology offered by Chinese vendors, such as Baidu (China) and iFLYTEK (China) is expected to benefit the entire value chain for the automatic speech recognition market in Asia Pacific during the forecast period. The growing need for local language-based speech recognition software in South Asian countries is expected to provide ample growth opportunities for the ASR market in APAC during the forecast period.

On-premises/embedded deployment mode to grow significantly during the forecast period

The demand for on-premises/embedded infrastructure is expected to increase in the forecast period. Americas will lead the market for the on-premises/embedded segment as a result of more companies demanding on-premises/embedded deployment. The increasing demand for on-premises/embedded infrastructure is also leading to an increase in the number of providers in the Americas, thereby improving the overall market growth.

Consumer vertical to have the largest market share during the forecast period

In 2020, the consumer vertical accounted for the largest size of the speech and voice recognition market and is expected to hold a dominant position throughout the forecast period. The introduction of voice based smart devices in the consumer sector has led to the launch of many innovative products in the market. The continuous decline in the cost of voice and speech devices, software developments, and relevant content developments are also driving the market for speech and voice recognition. The increasing demand for intelligent virtual assistant smart speakers with voice capabilities is expected to be a prominent driver for the speech and voice recognition market for the consumer vertical during the forecast period.

APAC to grow with highest CAGR for speech and voice recognition market during the forecast period

The market in APAC is expected to grow during the forecast period. The growing focus on artificial intelligence (AI) in industries and enterprises is also expected to contribute toward the growth of the voice recognition market in Asia Pacific during the forecast period. Increasing digitalization and government policies favoring digitalization and technological innovations are also expected to drive the growth of market in APAC region.

Key Market Players:

Apple (US), Microsoft (US), IBM (US), Alphabet (US), Amazon (US), Sensory (US), CANTAB Research (UK), Baidu (China), iFLYTEK (China) and SESTEK (Turkey) are among the key players operating in the speech and voice recognition market.

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From: Frank Sully8/29/2021 8:18:22 PM
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DeepMind’s AI Plays Catch…And So Much More!

8 minute video from Google's DeepMind:

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From: Frank Sully8/31/2021 12:25:58 PM
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Google To Invest Around $1.2Bln In German Digital Infrastructure

Daniyal Sohail
Tue 31st August 2021 | 07:47 PM

Google has signed an agreement with French multinational utility company Engie and will invest about 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in digital infrastructure and clean energy in Germany by 2030

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 31st August, 2021)

Google has signed an agreement with French multinational utility company Engie and will invest about 1 billion Euros ($1.2 billion) in digital infrastructure and clean energy in Germany by 2030.

"As part of our broader announcement that, between now (2021) and 2030, Google will be investing approximately 1 billion euros in digital infrastructure and clean energy in Germany, Google has signed a first-of-its-kind agreement in Europe to purchase the clean energy that will help ensure that our operations in Germany will operate at nearly 80% carbon-free energy on an hourly basis beginning in 2022," the US technology company said in a statement.

The agreement is also meant to determine ways for other European companies to decarbonize electricity use and support the continent's green recovery.

Engie, in its turn, will work out a carbon-free energy portfolio on Google's behalf.

"Jointly with ENGIE, Google will purchase electricity from 23 renewable energy projects in five German states. Some will be newly-built from scratch. Others (such as existing onshore wind projects that will no longer receive national subsidy support) will see their life extended," the statement read.

In addition, Google is planning to switch to carbon-free energy 24/7 at all our campuses and data centers worldwide by 2030.

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From: Frank Sully9/1/2021 3:07:49 PM
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Google Cloud and C3 AI Create Industry-First Alliance to Accelerate Enterprise AI

Google Cloud and C3 AI partner to provide industry solutions that will address real-world challenges in financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, supply chain, and telecommunications


Google Cloud Sep 01, 2021, 09:00 ET

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and SUNNYVALE, Calif., Sept. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- C3 AI and Google Cloud today announced a new, first-of-its-kind partnership to help organizations across multiple industries accelerate their application of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. Under the agreement, both companies' global sales teams will co-sell C3 AI's enterprise AI applications, running on Google Cloud.

The entire portfolio of C3 AI's Enterprise AI applications, including industry-specific AI Applications, C3 AI Suite®, C3 AI CRM, and C3 AI Ex Machina, are now available on Google Cloud's global, secure, and low-latency infrastructure, enabling customers to run C3 AI on the industry's cleanest cloud.

Going forward, C3 AI will also work closely with Google Cloud to ensure that its applications fully leverage the accuracy and scale of multiple Google Cloud products and capabilities, including Google Kubernetes Engine, Google BigQuery, and Vertex AI, helping customers build and deploy ML models more quickly and effectively.

C3 AI's enterprise AI applications, built on a common foundation of Google Cloud's infrastructure, AI, machine learning (ML) and data analytics capabilities, will complement and interoperate with Google Cloud's portfolio of existing and future industry solutions. Customers will be able to deploy combined offerings to solve industry challenges in several verticals, including:
  • Manufacturing: Solutions to improve reliability of assets and fleets with AI-powered predictive maintenance, improve revenue and product forecasting accuracy, and improve the sustainability of manufacturing facilities and operations through optimized energy management.
  • Supply Chain & Logistics: Solutions to help supply-chain reliant businesses understand risks in their supply networks, maximize resilience, and optimize inventory accordingly.
  • Financial Services: Solutions to assist financial services institutions in modernizing their cash management offerings, improve lending processes, and reduce customer churn.
  • Healthcare: Solutions to improve the availability of critical healthcare equipment via AI-powered asset readiness and preventative maintenance.
  • Telecommunications: Solutions to improve network resiliency and overall customer experience, while reducing costs and the carbon footprint of operations.
"Combining the innovation, leadership, scale, and go-to-market expertise of Google Cloud with the substantial business value delivered from C3 AI applications, this partnership will dramatically accelerate the adoption of Enterprise AI applications across all industry segments," said Thomas M. Siebel, CEO.

"Google Cloud and C3 AI share the vision that artificial intelligence can help businesses address real-world challenges and opportunities across multiple industries," said Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud. "We believe that by delivering C3 AI's applications on Google Cloud, and by partnering to address specific industry use cases with AI, we can help customers benefit more quickly and at greater scale."

"Organizations across industries are accelerating their digital transformations with cloud-based solutions, purpose-built to deliver specific business outcomes," said Ritu Jyoti, group vice president, AI and Automation Research at IDC. "This new partnership between C3 AI and Google Cloud represents an acceleration of this trend, as the two companies partner to expand the application of AI-powered solutions in the enterprise."

"This is fundamentally game-changing for the hyperscale computing market," said Jim Snabe, former co-CEO, SAP AG. "Google Cloud is changing the competitive discussion from CPU seconds and gigabyte-hours, to enterprise AI applications producing enormous value for customers, shareholders, and society at large."

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From: Frank Sully9/1/2021 4:34:40 PM
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Google stock has quietly gone berserk — here's why

Brian Sozzi
·Anchor, Editor-at-Large

Wed, September 1, 2021, 1:35 PM

Rather under-the-radar, Google ( GOOG, GOOGL) is now holding the crown as the top-performing member of the closely watched FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet’s Google) complex amid a summer surge in its stock price.

Shares of Alphabet, Google's owner, tacked on an impressive 8.2% in August, lagging only behind a 12.8% pop in Netflix. But year-to-date, Alphabet holds a wide lead over its FAANG cohorts.

Alphabet's stock has skyrocketed 66% on the year, thumping second place performer Facebook's 40% gain. The worst-performing FAANG stock is Netflix with a 8% increase year-to-date.

Even Microsoft with its strong year financially hasn't kept pace with Alphabet. Microsoft stock is up 36% in 2021.

"We view this part of a risk-on trade and many investors playing a digital advertising tidal wave of demand that is clearly putting tailwinds into the stock. Also, Google is having success with cloud services which is another leg to the growth story as they play catch-up to Microsoft and Amazon," Wedbush tech analyst Dan Ives tells Yahoo Finance.

The latest bull run in Alphabet's stock appears to have been ignited by a second straight impressive quarter, fueled by better cost management, strength for YouTube and increased wins for cloud services. Alphabet's second quarter sales rose 62% from the prior year to $61.9 billion. Operating profit margins expanded to 31% from 17% a year earlier.

"Google continues to grow revenue and EPS at a ~20% CAGR on a normalized basis. The company continues to innovate its product, and its machine learning capabilities should help advertisers get higher ROI, causing them to continue to allocate their advertising budgets to Google," Barclays tech analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a research note earlier this month.

To be sure, the run in the stock price has sent Alphabet's valuation to loftier levels — raising expectations for the company's financial performance.

Alphabet's advance has pushed its valuation — depending on what metric you look at — to record levels compared to the past decade, per Yahoo Finance Plus data.

For instance, Alphabet's current forward price-to-earnings multiple of 31.2 times is well above its 27 times 10-year average. At $1.92 trillion, Alphabet's market cap is at a record high — putting it in third place behind Apple ($2.54 trillion) and Microsoft ($2.3 trillion) in the most valuable company race.

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