Roundup: All Hail Google, WiFi in cars, Wallop walloped, Ahnold’s funding

Round-up of the latest action in Silicon Valley:

google.jpgIt’s all about Google — Notable post by Rich Skrenta about how Google is becoming ever more important. Having become the “start page” for the Web, Google makes $90 to $120 for every thousand times its pages get viewed (or CPM), compared to a mere $4-5 for an average page view elsewhere, he calculates. We asked him for his assumptions, and it turns out he mixes a lot of sources, but the high-end of his figure comes from an analysis from Caris & Co.’s Tim Boyd, who uses Comscore data to estimate that Google makes between 19¢ and 21¢ per search (or roughly $200 per thousand searches).

Google boosts its own products in search results — Google continues to find ways to upgrade its own features in search results. Blake Ross has a good piece about the latest, “Google Tips,” which lists Google’s photo-sharing site, Picasa, a tip for users at the top of its results, even though Picasa doesn’ even show up on the front page of its own search results (see image below). That’s just one example among many such self-interested tips. We messaged Google last week to see when they introduced the feature; they didn’t respond.

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Too many others chasing Google — Minekey is just the latest search service to appear, with $3 million in funding (see our story here). The NYT follows today with a piece about all the other search engines vying for a slice of the all-pervasive search engine market. We’ve covered most already at VentureBeat. Problem is, their logic doesn’t quite hold. Yes, if you pick up a single percentage of the search market, you’ll get profits, but it no one seems to be pulling this off (explained by Skrenta’s “winner-take-all” analysis above). Among others, the NYT piece mentions ChaCha, the search engine that has live guides help you with search (we’ve used it, and it’s true) has raised $6 million, including from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Our previous coverage of ChaCha is here (scroll down). It’s hard to comprehend, though, how the company will cover labor costs. The NYT also mentions the yet-to-launch Hakia, a company reported on elsewhere, but not yet mentioned by VentureBeat — which wants to do something similar to Powerset also promises: a natural language search. Hakia raised $16 million from Noble Grossart Investments, Alexandra Investment Management and a motley group of others, including Polish and Turkish oil, real estate and telecom groups.

autonetlogo.bmpWiFi in cars; watch out for accidents later this yearAutonet Mobile, a San Francisco wireless start-up, is expected to announce this week it has partnered with Avis Rent A Car System to “provide a rolling WiFi hotspot to Avis customers by March,” according to the NYT. For $10.95 a day, Avis will give customers a portable device that plugs into a car’s power supply and delivers a high-speed Internet connection. It will use the 3G cellular network and work in all metropolitan areas and “about 95 percent of the country,” says Sterling Pratz, the company’s chief exec. We’ll believe this when we see it, because many parts of the Bay Area have spotty cell network coverage as it is, let alone 3G coverage. There’s an amusing concession in the story. The company has some technology limitations, the Times says, like “bandwidth restrictions.” Meanwhile, Ford is introducing bluetooth systems next year in its cars, allowing people to chat, and check email.

Gmail vulnerable to contact list hijacking – If you visit the wrong Web site, you may be vulnerable to having your Gmail contacts lifted. That’s because Gmail stores its contacts in javascript files. Details here.

kelly.bmpWalloped takes a wallop — Sean Uberoi Kelly, CTO, founder and principal inventor of Wallop has left the San Francisco social networking start-up Wallop, according to Gigaom. Chief exec Karl Jacobs says the departure is normal, noting Kelly is going to back to New York, where he has family — and has finished building the product. Fair enough, but it’s a blow nonetheless. We have yet to understand Wallop’s strategy and business model (explained here in detail). It raised a total of $13.6 million from Norwest, Bay Partners and angels.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s investment plan for California tech — A hodge-podge of projects comprise the governor’s $95 million proposal for research spending. Summary in Merc: Some $30 million would go toward building a new research building for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Helios Project, which is developing the next generation of efficient solar-energy technology. An additional $40 million would help build an Energy Biosciences Institute facility for research into alternative fuels, at either the University of California-Berkeley or UC-San Diego. Some $5 million would help the University of California’s bid to build a $200 million super-fast “petascale'” computer at the Lawrence Laboratory.