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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

Coming soon! Microsoft Audience Statistical Question Postulator, Version 1.0 (Model Train Enthusias

It is not Google’s upbeat economic comments on last night’s earnings call we will be, for lack of a better term, extolling here today—although Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, stated in no uncertain terms that business is coming back.

Here’s how he began the call, courtesy of the indispensible Seeking Alpha:

You know, while there is obviously a lot of uncertainty about the pace of economic recovery, we believe the worst of the recession is behind us and we’re seeing lots of signs of that in all of the industries that we pay attention to. So we’re very optimistic now about the future. We now have the business confidence to invest heavily in the next phase of innovation, hoping to invent the future as we see it.

So Schmidt began the call, and in case you didn’t hear him correctly, he closed his bullish introductory comments with an exclamation point:

The worst of the recession clearly [is] behind us and because of what we have seen we now have the confidence to be optimistic about our future and we’re going to invest as a result, and that I think is ultimately good for the long term of Google.

This is important stuff.

While everyone has been searching for “green shoots” and other signs of “stabilization,” much of the news we have been hearing from real companies has been of the “less-bad” variety, as opposed to the “outright good” type.

Google has given us the outright good, including one particular piece of news that nobody much expects to hear about ever again in our lifetimes: new hiring.

Again, from Schmidt:

So how are we investing? Well, we’re going to invest in people. We’re already stepping up our hiring… This is good news coming from one of the world’s leading growth companies, which had actually been reducing headcount during the crisis.

Still, we come to praise not so much what Google said last night, as how Google said it.In what promises to revolutionize the public company conference call business, Google adopted a new method of taking questions from Wall Street’s Finest…and in typically Googlian fashion, the company used its own product to do so.

The product is Google Moderator (“Helping the world find the best input from an audience of any size”). Already used by the White House for a Town Meeting with the President, Moderator is a slick way to allow participants to vote on the questions they deem most relevant.

Here’s how Google’s IR person described it:Please submit your questions via the Moderator page that we have sent out and the audience will vote on the most relevant questions. We will only be taking questions that are relevant to today’s earnings results and Google’s long-term strategy. And the result was—at least we here at NotMakingThisUp think so—a resounding success.

While Google’s previous earnings call allowed for only questions from 16 of Wall Street’s Finest—what with WSF’s habit of asking multi-part questions; obsessing with minor details like why this quarter’s tax rate was half a basis point different than last quarter’s tax rate; not to mention notoriously circuitous questions that frequently generate the response, “I don’t understand your question but I’ll try to help you…”—last night’s call allowed for 24 questions. We weren’t math majors, but that looks like a 50% increase in productivity.

And that meant innocent bystanders like us didn’t have to listen to the phrase “How should we think about…” repeated 600 times, not to mention the absolute worst symptom of Sell-Side Analyst Syndrome, the dreaded “Great quarter, guys…”

All in all, we must say to the folks at Google: great conference call, guys—and we mean it. Here’s hoping America’s other public companies will swiftly adopt Google Moderator.

Of course, there is one company that will NEVER do so, and that company is based in Redmond, Washington.

Right now, in fact, we suspect Microsoft is working on its own version of Google Moderator, which will no doubt have 15 different versions, depending on the length of the conference call being moderated, the size of the audience, the CUSIP number of the company being discussed, not to mention the particular font size audience members prefer to type in…

Coming soon! Microsoft Audience Statistical Question Postulator, Version 1.0 (Model Train Enthusiast Edition)!™

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

© 2009 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice, and should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Also, this blog is not a solicitation of business by Mr. Matthews: all inquiries will be ignored. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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