Finimize - 💰 Google could charge you to search

Google might charge you for surfing the web | Apple is working on live-in robots |
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Today's big stories

  1. Google weighed up the prospect of charging for its AI-powered search engine
  2. BlackRock is still backing Japan – Read Now
  3. Apple replaced its failed electric vehicle ambitions with blueprints for home robots

Surf’s Up

Surf’s Up

What’s going on here?

Google considered charging for its AI-powered search engine, potentially ending the era of free web browsing.

What does this mean?

Some things just feel free: a walk on the beach, a stroll around a museum, and searching for stuff online. Yet, Alphabet-owned Google has only kept its search engine free because the higher footfall means it can make bank through advertising. In fact, $175 billion of Google’s search revenue came from advertising last year, more than half of its total takings. But because it’ll cost more to power search results with AI, Google is considering charging for the service, putting one of its core products behind a paywall for the first time ever.

Why should I care?

Zooming in: There’s such a thing as “too good”.

Rivals like Microsoft’s Bing and fledgling startups will be racing to perfect AI-powered search first. Still, Google needs to be careful: if its souped-up search engine produces perfect answers, folk might not click through to websites for more information. And for those that pay Google for a spot at the top of the page, that could be enough of a reason to cancel the direct debit. To add to those concerns, Google’s been pulled into court by the Department of Justice for anti-competitive behavior, and its Gemini chatbot has been criticized for spitting out false “historical” images.

The bigger picture: We’re taking it slow.

Chatbots including OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot have already wrangled their spots into folks’ phones and bookmark bars. That said, it doesn’t seem like their users see them as a replacement for search engines just yet. Google still owns 91% of the search market according to Statcounter, barely down from the 92% average over the last five years. Now, that will change over time as we start trusting bots with our love lives and health concerns, but investors seem to have factored that into the share price: Google has the cheapest valuation of the Magnificent Seven stocks.

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Analyst Take

BlackRock Is Big On Japan

BlackRock Is Big On Japan

By Russell Burns, Analyst

Going into 2024, BlackRock wasn’t exactly looking at the investment world through rose-colored sunglasses.

It saw mostly slower growth, hotter-than-ideal inflation, higher interest rates, and greater volatility ahead.

And Japan was the only advanced economy putting a glimmer in its eye.

Now, just a few months later, the biggest asset manager on the planet is looking back at those calls – and mostly doubling down.

That’s today’s Insight: BlackRock’s Japan bet and the few other places where it sees opportunities.

Read or listen to the Insight here

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iRobot

iRobot

What’s going on here?

Apple is tinkering with radical home technologies, hoping that folk will buy live-in robots from a company that couldn’t nail electric vehicles.

What does this mean?

Apple's engineers are dreaming up a robot that could follow you around at home – because that sounds like a normal, reassuring, and non-disruptive addition to a regular day. That’s not the only sketch on the drawing board, though, with other home-focused innovations like a “home hub” with an iPad-eque display in the lineup. Now, they’re all just in the brainstorming stage at the moment, but with the Vision Pro already out and electric vehicle plans on ice, Apple might find the time to pull a blueprint into the lab.

Why should I care?

Zooming out: Apple’s software update is overdue.

The iPhone was responsible for 52% of Apple’s $383 billion sales last year. But wary of resting on its laurels, especially now that the signature smartphone is falling out of favor in China, Apple needs to find its next big thing – and fast. The Vision Pro virtual reality headset might turn out to be a cash cow, but it’ll take a long time for an almost full-face technological eye mask to win over the masses. So it’s no wonder Apple is set on pushing tech into homes around the world – especially when that could mean building a treasure trove of consumer data by the day.

The bigger picture: Try turning it on and off again.

Apple used to be the frontrunner in product innovation, turning rivals green with envy with each launch of an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. That’s no longer the case. Apple’s notably absent from the AI arena, with many investors worried that the tech giant might lose its prominence in the next technological frontier. US and European regulators aren’t helping, either, filing accusations that Apple is pushing smaller companies out of the market.

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