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New Alphabet CEO, same old ABCs

February 4, 2020, 1:29 PM UTC

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Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Tech writer Danielle Abril here filling in for Adam Lashinsky. 

Did you catch Alphabet’s earnings yesterday? It was the first time Sundar Pichai spoke publicly as top dog. In December, Pichai was promoted from CEO of Google to head of Alphabet to much fanfare and speculation about the direction of the company.

And you know what Pichai told us about how the leadership change will impact that future? Nothing. Nothing at all.  

“Before I talk about highlights of the quarter, I want to step back and give some early thoughts to my approach to managing Alphabet and other bets,” he said, only to repeat familiar goals of long-term growth, investments in artificial intelligence, and cloud expansion in his characteristic monotone.

Though Pichai gave little insight into what changes may result from the leadership change (he revealed a little more to Adam), he did offer up numbers Alphabet has never previously released: revenue totals for the company’s cloud computing business and YouTube ads.  

I covered those numbers yesterday, along with Alphabet’s fourth-quarter earnings. While the rates at which YouTube and Google’s cloud business are annually growing (36% and 53% respectively) are very positive, it’s important to remember that together both represent only 15% of Alphabet’s overall revenue.  

“It’s essentially a rounding error,” Brent Thill, analyst at Jefferies, told me after Alphabet’s earnings came out. 

Meanwhile, the biggest chunk of Alphabet’s $161.9 billion revenue—its main ad business—is slowing. The latest results, up 17%, represent the company’s slowest quarter of revenue growth since 2015.  

Alphabet’s results wrap up the quarterly earnings for the FAANG companies. Here’s how that played out: Apple and Amazon had better-than-expected holiday seasons, which boosted both stocks. Netflix also beat projections, giving its stock a slight bump, but cautioned that lighter subscriber growth was ahead.   

But ad-based companies Google and Facebook suffered from the same downfall: a slowdown in revenue growth. And both stocks dropped following fourth-quarter earnings. 

Coincidence? It’s too early to tell. But as regulations and privacy measures kick up, the two behemoths will be challenged to prove they can still deliver a return for advertisers.  

It’s a tall order that may take some time to remaster. So perhaps Pichai’s even-keeled, long-term approach may come in handy after all.  

Danielle Abril

Twitter: @DanielleDigest

Email: danielle.abril@fortune.com

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.

NEWSWORTHY

Egg freckles? They say they've been hard at work improving Siri, but Apple has to be disappointed by the latest competition pitting their digital assistant against Amazon's Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Microsoft's Cortana. A team from the University of Alberta asked each virtual answer machine 123 questions on 39 emergency health topics, such as heart attacks and poisoning. Google and Alexa addressed the correct topic 90% of the time and gave useful and accurate answers in half of those cases. But Siri and Microsoft's Cortana performed so poorly that their responses could not be graded.

Pried from my cold, dead hands. It's the end of the line for lovers of the Blackberry phone, at least for a while. Blackberry said it was terminating its licensing deal later this year with Chinese phone maker TCL to produce keyboard-equipped Android phones that run its software.

We don't need no stinkin' badges. Productivity app developer Asana said on Monday that it plans to go public soon in a direct listing without Wall Street underwriters, as Slack did last year. The task-tracking and collaboration software maker was co-founded by Facebook's Dustin Moskovitz.

You had one job. It's not yet clear exactly what went wrong with the Democratic party's system for counting the results of the Iowa caucuses, but something went hella wrong. A mysterious and controversial app used for the first time to tally the results may be at fault.

You had one job, the sequel. Microsoft's collaboration and messaging app Teams went offline on Monday for all users for a few hours. The Slack rival hit a technical snafu when an online authentication certificate expired.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

With so much work to get done every day, all too often the solution is to spend more and more time at work. Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders thinks that's a huge mistake, as she outlines in an advice column for the Harvard Business Review. She's got several tips and tricks to help people work smarter without just working more. How you end each day is an opportunity to gain control, she says.

The final part of increasing your mental clarity is to have an end-of-workday wrap-up. During this time, look over your daily to-do list and calendar to make sure that everything that absolutely must get done — specifically, those tasks that had a hard deadline — were completed. You also can do a quick scan of your email to ensure any urgent messages are attended to before you leave the office. For some people, it works well to do this as the last thing they do that day, say 15 to 30 minutes before heading out. For others, it’s better to put a reminder in their calendars for an hour or two before they need to leave. This gives them a more generous time period to wrap items up.

ON THE MOVE

Dropbox finally filled its vacant COO post, empty for more than a year, by hiring Olivia Nottebohm, who oversaw sales and operations at parts of Google Cloud and was earlier a partner at McKinsey...Also at Dropbox, CEO Drew Houston is joining Facebook's board of directors, becoming the eighth member of that exclusive body...British cybersecurity firm Darktrace hired a new CFO as it considers going public. Joining this month is Catherine Graham, who has helped four startups go public, including in her prior gig as CFO of online education company 2U...Netflix senior engineer Ruslan Meshenberg joins Apple's streaming TV effort as an engineering lead.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Iowa caucus voting app’s ‘security through obscurity’ seeds disinformation and legitimacy concerns By Alyssa Newcomb and Nicole Goodkind

If data is the new oil, these companies are the new Baker Hughes By Jeremy Kahn

Google tests photo printing subscription service By Chris Morris

Founder of Google’s Moonshot Factory and Udacity makes a big new bet By Jonathan Vanian

What you need to know about new IBM CEO Arvind Krishna By David Z. Morris

Coronavirus will take a bite out of Apple’s iPhone business. The question facing analysts: ‘How big?’ By Don Reisinger

The best reason to escape to Miami Beach for a weekend this winter By Alexandra Kirkman

BEFORE YOU GO

Many people have tried to fool mapping apps like Waze into diverting traffic away from their streets. But performance artist Simon Weckert took virtual traffic hacking to a new level. Weckert got a hold of 99 Android phones, piled them in a red wagon, and pulled them slowly through the streets of Berlin. Google Maps read the location and slow rate of travel as commuters trapped in a traffic jam and routed actual traffic away. Check out his video.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman

Email: aaron.pressman@fortune.com