Today: New report finds Google's many innovations have made its brand the best in the world, valued at nearly $160 billion, while Apple's slips on perception of stagnation. Also, Netflix's European expansion and Facebook's new sound-recognition feature spur gains.
Google on top of the world, at least in value
Google has overtaken Apple as the world's most valuable brand, according to a new study.
Apple, which had held the top spot for three years, fell to No. 2 as its value dropped 20 percent over the past year, to $148 billion, according to the "BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Goblal Brands" study, conducted by research firm Millward Brown. Google, meanwhile, surged 40 percent year-over-year, with its value increasing to $159 billion, the report found. The top five was rounded out by IBM ($108 billion), Microsoft ($90 billion) and McDonald's ($86 billion).
Google's "everywhere, everything" strategy -- with innovations in self-driving cars, mapping, wearable technology and more -- appeared to be the prime factor in pushing it ahead of Apple, which suffered from "a growing perception that it is no longer redefining technology for consumers, reflected by a lack of dramatic new product launches," the report said.
"I think the world is looking at Apple as a brand that created an Earth-shattering revolution, and I think that has slowed down a bit," Millward Brown vice president Oscar Yuan told AdWeek. "The fact that (Google) doesn't see themselves contained in one sector is really a testament to their boldness and willingness to try new things."
The biggest surprise on the list may have been Chinese Internet portal Tencent, which almost doubled its year-over-year value to $54 billion, good for a global ranking of No. 14 and surpassing China Mobile as Asia's most valuable brand.
Silicon Valley tech companies also made big gains in this year's survey. Facebook rose to No. 21 on the list -- one step above Walmart -- with a value of $36 billion, a 68 percent year-over-year increase. No. 45 Oracle improved 4 percent, to $21 billion; No. 69 Yahoo surged 44 percent, to $14 billion; and Twitter and LinkedIn both made their debuts on the list, at Nos. 71 and 78, respectively, with values of $14 billion and $12 billion.
"Digital service brands such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tencent and LinkedIn are now more than just tools, they have become part of our lives," BrandZ director Peter Walshe told the Telegraph. "They offer new forms of communication that absorb people's attention and imagination, while also helping them organise the rest of their lives at the same time. To gain more of our mind-space brands such as Google are making ambitious plays across existing category boundaries."
In other Google news, the Mountain View tech giant filed SEC documents revealing it's amassing up to $30 billion in overseas cash to acquire foreign companies; predicted it would someday show ads on everything from car dashboards to refrigerators to thermostats; and was sued over alleged ad-revenue fraud. Google shares gained 1.7 percent for the day, or $9.31, to close at $549.70.
Apple gained 0.26 percent, or $1.60, to close at $606.31, about $1 off its 52-week high.
SV150 market report: Netflix expansion, new Facebook feature spur gains
Stocks rose nearly across the board Wednesday, with almost 1 percent gains among the major indexes, though tech shares lagged slightly in the tech-heavy Nasdaq and SV150 index.
Los Gatos-based Netflix surged more than 5 percent, or $18.93, to $390.60 after announcing an expansion of its video-on-demand service to six European countries, including Germany and France. Menlo Park social behemoth Facebook rose 3.3 percent, or $1.93, to $60.49, after announcing its mobile app would feature the Shazam-like ability to hear and identify music and TV shows playing near users. The feature would simplify sharing and help "tell better stories," Facebook product manager Aryeh Selekman told the Wall Street Journal, but could also be used to compile TV ratings that could someday challenge industry leader Nielsen. TV ratings, of course, drive ad rates, which could also greatly benefit Facebook. San Jose-based networking giant Cisco rose 1.5 percent, or 36 cents, to $24.48, despite fears its international sales would be hurt, especially in China, after revelations that the NSA used its products to conduct spying.
EBay, the San Jose-based e-commerce giant, saw its shares slip a miniscule 0.15 percent, or 8 cents, to $51.88, after it warned users to change their passwords after its database was hacked. No financial data was believed to have been stolen. Hewlett-Packard fell nearly 1 pecent, or 28 cents, to $32.52, on the day the Palo Alto company launched a low-cost Android tablet.
Up: Oracle, Intel, Gilead, VMware, Juniper, Yahoo, Zynga, LinkedIn, Tesla
Down: Twitter, Pandora, Salesforce, Workday
SV150 index of Silicon Valley's biggest companies: Up 10.54, or 0.75 percent, to 1,415.31.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 34.65 , or 0.81 percent, to 4,131.54.
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 158.75 or 0.97 percent, to 16,533.06.
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 15.20, or 0.85 percent, to 1,888.03.
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Follow Mike Murphy at twitter.com/mmmmurf.